Advocates of Common Core State Standards love to point out how 45 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted this new national public school regimen. What they're not telling you, however, is how federal and state funds were used to muscle its adoption or how expert reviews and efficacy shortfalls have prompted political and educational action in at least 17 of those states to restrict or reverse the tides of CCSS rollout, according to a brand-new report in The Huffington Post.
In August, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Utah withdrew from the assessment groups designing tests for the CCSS. And in September, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order restricting Florida's involvement with the CCSS national assessments because of concerns over federal overreach of the program. Congress.org reported, "Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah are all currently considering full withdrawal with other fiscally conservative states sure to follow."
CCSS advocates also love to point out that the standards were, in the words of Stateline, "created by the nonpartisan Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents the top education officers in each state, and the National Governors Association." What they're not telling you, however, is the evidence I've detailed in the first four parts of my series about how the feds have been intricately involved in CCSS creation, funding and rollout from the beginning -- something they even tried to adamantly deny for years.
The advocates -- such as Chuck Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers -- love to pontificate that "teachers are enthusiastic about the implementation of CCSS in their classroom." But what they don't tell you is that, for example, a letter drafted to parents and endorsed by more than 530 New York principals shared their grave concern about the soundness of CCSS standardized tests that state education officials were imposing on students in grades three through eight.
They also won't tell you about a letter, in the words of The Washington Post, "signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens" that highlighted children's visceral reactions among a dozen strong objections to CCSS testing: "We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up."
Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom and author of "Behind the Curtain: Assessing the Case for National Curriculum Standards," summarized some of the scholarly objections about CCSS when he recently wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"It may come as a surprise to some that Common Core is opposed by scholars at several leading think tanks on both the right and left, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and my own Cato Institute. My research has shown there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes.
"Hoover Institution senior fellow Eric Hanushek, a well-known education economist and supporter of standards-based reform, has reached a similar conclusion about likely Common Core impotence. He recently wrote: 'We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact.'
"Hanushek's conclusion dovetails nicely with Common Core opposition from Tom Loveless, a scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution. In 2012, Loveless demonstrated that moving to national standards would have little, if any, positive effect because the performance of states has had very little connection to the rigor or quality of their standards. There is also much greater achievement variation within states than among them.
"In fact, Loveless has been one of the clearest voices saying Common Core is not a panacea for America's education woes, writing: 'Don't let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students' achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.'
"Moving to arguably the far left, prolific education historian Diane Ravitch also has taken on Common Core, noting that it is untested, was assembled behind closed doors and was essentially foisted on schools by the federal Race to the Top funding contest."
Ravitch is also adamant that CCSS' additional assessments will overload already overburdened students.
Carol Burris is the principal of South Side High School and was also named the 2010 New York state outstanding educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She co-authored the book "Opening the Common Core," as well as the letter signed by 1,535 principals, which argued against assessing teachers by student test scores. Burris was one of the biggest advocates of Common Core until it started to morph into something that would measure, control and uniformly test kids just like previous government educational programs.
Burris wrote on a Washington Post blog: "I confess that I was naive. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted. The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned."
One thing is clear, as education scholars have clearly pointed out: Our society's and children's academic shortcomings and ills aren't going to be cured by another national government system.
The feds' and states' entanglements in the U.S. public education system have been largely responsible for how today, in just a single generation, 1 in 4 young Americans don't graduate from high school, 3 in 4 young people are ineligible to serve in the military, 90 million American adults possess below-basic or basic reading skills and the U.S. has gone from No. 1 to No. 12 in the world in regard to how many young people complete their college education.
And we think more of the same is the answer?
As Ronald Reagan once said, "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'"
In the last two segments of this series, I will discuss recommendations from the best of educational experts -- including a few from our Founding Fathers -- in proposing a far superior educational system than CCSS.