Townhall Magazine's September Issue Preview: The Case Against Common Core

Conn Carroll

8/20/2014 9:56:00 AM - Conn Carroll

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Below is an excerpt from Sarah Jean Seman's September feature story, "The Case Against Common Core."

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was supposedly developed with one goal in mind: to strengthen the United States’ global competitive advantage by rigorously educating the next generation.

It is unquestioned that Americans are falling behind their foreign counterparts in academics. U.S. students tested below average in math and only nudged in close to average in reading and science when compared to 34 other developed countries, according to the 2012 Program for International Students Assessment.

“To maintain America’s competitive edge, we need all of our students to be prepared and ready to compete with students from around the world,” then-Vermont Gov. and National Governors Association vice chair Jim Douglas (D) said at the announcement of Common Core in 2009.

Unfortunately, this visionary overhaul has burgeoned into a federal government power grab. In its current capacity, the standards may end up hurting our already failing education system and overlooking our children’s unique needs and the diversity of the country at large.

The Common Core lobbying push began in 2006, when NGA chair and then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) launched her Innovation America campaign. Napolitano’s goal was to “give governors the tools they need to improve math and science education, better align postsecondary education systems with state economies, and develop regional innovation strategies.”

An ensuing task force composed of the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the progressive educational group Achieve Inc. produced a 2008 report titled “Benchmarking Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World Class Education.” The writers urged state leaders to “upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.”

This same advisory group proceeded to jointly develop the standards known today as Common Core State Standards.

The testing rubric sets K-12 grade-specific goals for English, language arts, and math. In theory, these standards would ensure that students in every state are reaching the same academic level. At the same time, teachers still have the freedom to craft lessons at will, as long as they include the material needed for students to pass the national benchmark. Regardless of where a family relocates, or what school system they transfer into, a student should be able to enter the academic setting with confidence that they can keep up with their peers. 

Microsoft guru Bill Gates eventually became one of Common Core’s biggest champions after activists sold him on the idea in 2008. Gates then heavily funded the organizations that pushed the Common Core standards and those same organizations are now set to use Microsoft products for their digital learning programs.

“I want to explain why Common Core is among the most important education ideas in years,” Gates wrote in a February 12, 2014 USA Today op-ed.

“The standards are just that: standards, similar to those that have guided teachers in all states for years, except these standards are inspired by a simple and powerful idea: Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the job market.”

Initially, 45 states agreed to join the initiative in 2009. And in many respects, the program started off on the correct foot. It did not take long, however, for states to recognize the product’s false packaging and the potentially detrimental effects it would bring to their state.

“If you look at the history of Common Core, how it came to be, the pressure and the incentive that were put on states to adopt it, I think it’s easy to conclude that this was federally driven,”