Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Nancy Jester, a former member of the DeKalb county school board who was then a candidate for state school superintendent. It will come as no surprise that one of the topics we touched on in that interview was Common Core, a program Jester vigorously opposes.
On the other side of the debateis former governor Sonny Purdue. In an editorial appearing in The National Review Online, Perdue addressed criticism of Common Core State Standards. After mounting a variety of defenses and taking critics to task, Perdue closed with a statement that he is a conservative Republican from the south and, “Core Standards will improve the quality of education in schools at a time when only one in four students will graduate from high school fully prepared for college.
Ultimately, there is no reasonable argument against that.”
Perdue would be absolutely correct if he wasn’t dead wrong. The fatal flaw in his statement is, “Core standards will improve the quality of education”. In and of themselves, standards can not improve anything; they define desired standards of knowledge, yet completely fail to address the means by which those standards are to be achieved. The Common Core standards also fail to address differences in student abilities and learning rates and the variety of teaching methods needed to accommodate them.
Jester put Common Core in its proper perspective stating, “I don’t believe that setting standards will drive achievement. For instance, in the 2001 “No Child Left Behind” program, the law said that by 2014 everybody in every sub-group tested was going to be measured as proficient in these specified categories. Okay, that was the standard– everybody was going to be proficient– but that’s not a method, that’s a hope. Setting a standard is like a hope– I hope that if this standard is set, students will achieve it.”
Of course, proponents of Common Core ignore the disconnect between standards and achievement, and the fact that the former doesn’t establish a method for the latter. Instead, proponents attempt to spin a distaste for Common Core as a resistance to improving education. In fact, the opposite is true. Vigorous opponents of Common Core are strongly in favor of improving student achievement and see Common Core as an impediment to reaching that goal. As Jester stated, “Saying you’re against Common Core does not mean you’re against standards, doesn’t mean you’re against high standards, doesn’t mean you think everything is okay with existing standards, because I don’t think they are okay. But I don’t think the way to improve student achievement is through yet another bureaucracy– a standards bureau that is not going to be within the purview of any state. It’s another national type organization and we don’t have a good track record with that- the federal Department of Education does not have a good track record. It’s bureaucracy, and bureaucracy perpetuates bureaucracy, and compliance with bureaucracy and the incumbent paperwork.”
One of the alleged benefits of Common Core is the ability of states to compare the test scores across state lines. What proponents neglect to mention is that only 16 states are participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, (PARCC) the testing protocol developed to evaluate student compliance with the Common Core standards. It’s extremely expensive to administer and unnecessary. For decades. schools have used Norm-Referenced tests that evaluate a broad range of skills that children should know at various points in their school career. The scores are given to parents so they can see how their child performed relative to every other child who took the test that year. If your child is at the 80th percentile, he or she is scoring at or above 80% of the children in the nation taking that test.
The picture of educational systems around the nation are often obscured by massaged statistics and lame excuses. That won’t change unless parents start asking tough questions of educators and legislators as a means of bringing about better accountability and improved education. One example- in the Southeast, Georgia spends more per pupil than every state that borders it, yet has a lower graduation rate. Other states may be in the same position, yet taxpayers are largely unaware of it. Like other states, Georgia has overspent on bureaucracy at the expense of the classroom. The result is that costs have been driven up and achievement has been driven down.
Common Core will only exacerbate the cost/result ratio of education systems across the nation. It is yet another scheme that will ultimately increase federal government intrusion into an area that is rightfully within the purview of state and local governments.