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TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT COMMON CORE

Columnist Tim Bryce

 ~~~by Tim Bryce – 8/21/2013~~~

~BRYCE ON EDUCATION~

- Next time you hear “Common Core” in a conversation; pay attention!-

Coming from the Information Technology industry, I understand the challenges of developing and implementing standards. Those introduced by companies seem to be more successful than those sanctioned by government. Either way, there seems to be a natural aversion to standards in this country. As a small example, consider the attitude of parents who steadfastly resist student uniforms in school, claiming it inhibits the creativity and individuality of their offspring.

Then there is the matter of “Common Core” (CC), a federal effort intended to put state education programs on a national level playing field. Created in 2009 by the National Governors Association (NGA), Common Core initially consisted of testing standards for mathematics and “English language arts” (literacy) to be implemented as a series of tests. Other subjects may be added later, such as science, history, government, morality, etc.

CC was embraced by the Obama administration who encouraged states to adopt the educational standards by offering federal “Race to the Top” grants which, essentially, is a bribe. At its inception, 45 of the 50 states joined the initiative. Texas and Alaska did not join, and interestingly, Nebraska and Virginia are members but have opted not to embrace the standards. There also appears to be a push back in progress as people are beginning to question the necessity of a national education standard. For example, Alabama and Indiana have introduced legislation to repeal the standard in their states. In addition, Georgia and Oklahoma recently decided against adopting standardized tests.(1) Others are beginning to question it as well, including Florida.

Why all of the sudden interest in something presumed to be a good idea? A couple of reasons: first, due to the vast size of the United States with its cultural differences, people question the practicality of a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum. Teaching kids in the inner city is different than teaching those in remote or rural locations. The cultural differences between New England, Mid-Atlantic, the South, the Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest (not to mention Hawaii and Alaska) are substantial. True, math is math and English is English, but how they are taught depends on the nuances of the region. Second, CC emphasizes testing as opposed to teaching, rote learning versus lecturing, and as such, fails to recognize different teaching styles to accommodate cultural differences. Consequently, you will likely see more teachers with Education degrees as opposed to those with degrees in mathematics, languages, science, history, etc. Somehow, I am reminded of the Einstein quote, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” And third, it trumps the authority of local school boards who are supposed to be in tune with local educational needs.

Little has been said about the organization behind CC. For example, will a giant data base be created to track student scores and compare different geographical locations or socioeconomic groups? How will testing be performed and who will do it? Surely, such standards must exist already or are we creating another system doomed to failure? The federal government doesn’t exactly have a stellar record in this regard. Despite all of the good intentions of the people developing CC, I smell a costly disaster brewing. Estimates of the costs involved vary, but they are all in the billions of dollars, an enormous price for an untested theory of education. All of this represents a red flag people are suddenly waving as we approach the mid-term elections in 2014. This will undoubtedly become a major political issue particularly among state and county officials.

Frankly, I believe we are testing the wrong people. We should be routinely testing the teachers and school administrators to evaluate their competence, mothers and fathers to check their parental skills, and government officials to see if they truly understand what the heck is going on in our schools. As to testing the students, let’s leave it to the people we elect who are supposed to understand what is best for the students in our community, the local School Board.

Like I said, developing and implementing standards can become an arduous task. Devising standards at the local level is far easier than trying to implement them at a federal level. Bottom-line we should simply be asking, “What is best for the youth of our community?”

The public’s lack of knowledge regarding “Common Core” is disturbing. This is big, very big. Next time you hear “Common Core” pop-up in a conversation, listen carefully. It is going to affect a lot of people; students, teachers, parents, teacher unions, school administrators, and, of course, taxpayers.

P.S. – I would just be happy to see today’s students be able to pass this standard Eighth Grade EXAMINATION from 1912 in Kentucky, which was typical back then.

Keep the Faith!

1 - “Georgia, Oklahoma say Common Core tests are too costly and decide not to adopt them” - Washington Post, July 23, 2013

 

Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.(Published with permission of author)

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