As more and more moms, dads, and teachers around America find out exactly what Common Core is, they are increasingly becoming skeptical of this new government education program.
Thirty-four the original 45 states which adopted Common Core1 have more than 120 bills in the legislative process to repeal parts of Common Core. These measures include: Restore courses of study terminated by Common Core; Requiring parental consent prior to collecting, accessing, or disclosing student records and data to any third parties; And allowing parents to opt out of assessments. An increasing number of people are also saying Common Core is becoming more unaffordable for the very schools the law is supposed to be helping.
State legislators are reacting to the Common Core rollout by pushing for new state laws to modify or repeal parts or all of Common Core State Standards and even organizations like the National Education Association (NEA) are on record saying Common Core had a botched implementation and needs rethinking.
It is sad the conversation has for so long been directed at reform through the same failing public system while excluding more successful or promising ones. Research shows private and charter schools outperform traditional schools in academic achievement, parent satisfaction and cost of education.3
There is no rational argument in favor of continuing the status quo. The public education system is failing even after five decades of "reform agendas" promising more access to a quality education for all students.
Real change cannot be a one-size-fits-all mandate that is just another program delivered through the same broken system, ending in the same disastrous results, and always needing a new program to fix the old one.
Real change must allow moms and dads broader access to all types of schools and new education alternatives enabled by institution reform, technology, and bottom-up funding which enables parents to choose the best fit for their children. Equal opportunity for all, including the most underserved lower-income and special needs students.
Real change is especially important in Delaware where access to other education options are limited to families with higher incomes or who are lucky enough to win a lottery.4 The only option available for the less affluent or less fortunate students is a system where fourth and eight grade test scores are mediocre and moving sideways but not up, where the nearly two grade gap between the highest and lowest performers remains the same; where poor SAT scores have accelerated downward the past five years to last in the USA (even adjusting for all Delaware students being required to take the SATs);5 where nearly a third of those who go to college will dropout, and a quarter of high school freshman will dropout.
Kicking off Black History Month at the Freedom Forum held at Hanover Street Presbyterian Church, Professor Yasser Payne of the University of Delaware summarized startling data collected through surveys of residents of Wilmingtons Southbridge and East Side neighborhoods: nearly 70 percent of young men between 18 and 35 are unemployed. Unemployment and education levels are predictive of incarceration. In Delaware, three quarters of black men in prison are high school dropouts. Payne said, “We found about one hundred percent of black boys were dropping out of schools in Southbridge.”6
Into these realities comes the latest “new solution” from the government-education establishment – RTTT / Common Core.
Reasonable people are asking questions. Unfortunately, anyone who questions Common Core has been dismissed as politicizing and endangering the future of children.7 It is unlikely that questioning and criticism from families and teachers is political or intended to endanger the future of their children. It is more likely the supporters of Common Core are using stereotyping to squash dissent.
The truth is there has been little from CCSS supporters that is substantive despite a promise of more information and partnering with former governors, pro-Common Core think tanks, well-funded non-profits, and business. Part of the problem for more disclosure may be as former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch and others complain that these standards are untested and are not sufficiently bench-marked.
It is reasonable to request an inclusive, comprehensive and open-minded discussion; a discussion hat should have occurred before implementation. It is time for a robust conversation and end coercion by government mandates and time pressure.
It is time to address concerns of everyday families, show them what results to expect and inform them how better quality will be achieved for their children.
And, it is time to let teachers teach.
Delaware is one of five states that continues to move ahead without a robust public discussion in the legislature. Sad, but true. The establishment knows best how to fix their own mistakes – and, be patient because it will take more time and more "investment" in education.
Parents know K-12 education in Delaware is not working despite recent declarations of success attributed to more students taking tests; or claims that “Delaware has successfully addressed 75% of the policy recommendations in the original plan and has seen movement in terms of student performance on state and national measures.”8 These statements are nothing more than vague, misleading claims designed to cover up the lack of academic progress.
In past decade alone reform programs have included No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Vision 2012 and 2015, Race to The Top (RTTT) and Common Core. It appears it is now time to move to another program – perhaps Vision 2020?
“With an eye on the future, the Vision 2015 Implementation Team has established an even broader Steering Committee to assess the current state of public education and identify potential opportunities to build on the state’s successes.” 9
The dizzying array of programs is confusing and exhausting for those who actually teach in classrooms, disturbing for parents and their failing children, and of increasing concern to the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) and its membership.
Doing what families, critics and other skeptics of Common Core have been doing, DSEA seeks to protect its members from another failed program by calling
“. . . for a moratorium on the segment of the state’s evaluation system that ties teacher performance to their students’ test scores, voiced “no confidence” in how the state is implementing the Common Core State Standards, and pushed to allow parents to “opt out” of state standardized tests.” 10 (Emphasis Added)
It is time for a conversation not only about the direction and content but also about the financial implications of Common Core
Delawares tax revenues are below expectations and the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Panel is now projecting a current year shortfall of $107 million.11
Where will the money come from to support a $3.8 billion budget that will have over $1 billion for education: More taxes? Reallocation of expenses from state general fund to local property owners? More federal money? Cutting school services? Compelling more students to attend traditional public schools?
Government has for decades funded increasing education expenditures that have outpaced economic growth; and now education expenditures are pressured by a long-term slow-growth economy and more government spending on programs like healthcare. Traditional reform methods have not improved the cost or effectiveness of K-12 education. Change is now a matter of both effectiveness and necessity.
You can make a difference. Let your elected officials know that you support:
• A moratorium on further implementation of RTTT and Common Core until there is full disclosure including the impact on academic outcomes, student and family privacy, and fiscal requirements.
• Taxpayer dollars already allocated to your children follow them to the schools of your choice by adopting Education Savings Accounts (ESA).
• Re-empowering local control and oppose government mandated programs.
• Holding government agencies accountable.
(A complete list of elected officials is available at http://legis.delaware.gov/legislature.nsf/Lookup/Know_Your_Legislators)
Director, Center for Education Excellence
Caesar Rodney Institute
1 Unified curriculum (Common Core) is part Race to The Top (RTTT) which came about through the US Department of Education and not a deliberative legislative process at the federal or state level. RTTT funds came from the Recovery Act of 2009. http://www.ed.gov/recovery. The curriculum mandate that was initially part of RTTT was dropped for a less obvious requirement for adoption to earn extra credit when a states applicaton is considred for federal funds.
2 Many confuse actual state governing bodies with private non-profit groups like the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The NGA is an independent non-profit organization composed of governors. “The mission of the National Governors Assoiation (NGA) Officeof Federal Relations is to ensure the governors views are represented to the shaping of federal policiy. NGA policy positions, reflecting governors principles on priority issues, guide th associations effort to influence federal laws and regulations affecting states.” http://www.nga.org/cms/federalrelations.
The CCSSO is a nonpartisan nationwide, non-profit organization of public officials
who head departments of elementary and secondary education.
3 There are many surveys and research reports that show the preference for and better performance of alternatives to traditional public schools including private, faith-based, and home-schooling. These are represetative
4 Delawares choice program is better characterized as an In-System Transfer program that permits transfer from one public school to another public school whether in or out of the family zipcode district – if permitted by the gaining school. It does not permit transfer to a private school unless the parents have the personal income sufficient to pay for the private school. https://www.doe.k12.de.us/
5 Andrew Coulson, State Education Trends, Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years”, Policy Analysis, Cato Institute, Number 746, March 18,2014
6 By Melissa Nann Burke, Forum gives sober verdict on plight of black city men, The News Journal, February 1, 2014
7 "Some people have politicized the push for higher standards, and its endangering our childrens future," Markell said. "We have to invest the time and effort into communicating the value of these standards. Its not about politics, its about raising the bar for our children." http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/03/10/markell-jumps-into-national-fray-over-common-core/6275607/
11 Jonathan Starkey, “Lower revenue threatens Markell Budget Plan”. http://www.statebudgetsolutions.org/publications/detail/lower-revenue-threatens-markell-budget-plan#ixzz2xGfDC0QR