A recent Gallop poll revealed 1 in 3 Americans have now heard of the “Common Core Standards Initiative” (CCSI) — Common Core, for short. For the 2/3 that haven’t, in a nutshell, these are a set of national standards developed to regiment and systematize education all across the country. They began when a self-appointed committee of individuals, nonprofits, business leaders, foundations and corporations, encouraged by another self-appointed committee of individuals, nonprofits, business leaders, foundations and corporations (and, many believe, the federal government) decided to come up with a list of what all children in all American schools need to learn, and how each area should be taught — for every subject, for every grade from K-12 (and, frightfully, maybe someday, prenatal).
The official web site and the actual Common Core Standards may be found here.
WHAT IS IT?
The Common Core is a set of national standards for American classrooms. Standards are detailed a list of milestones that must be met by all students before they progress to the next instructional level. In the case of the Common Core, these are a set of milestones that must be met by students for English Language Arts (including literacy in other subjects) and for Mathematics.
For those who have never seen standards before, the new ones look like this:
- CCSS.Math.Content.6.G.A.1 Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons by composing into rectangles or decomposing into triangles and other shapes; apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
- CCSS.Math.Content.6.G.A.2 Find the volume of a right rectangular prism with fractional edge lengths by packing it with unit cubes of the appropriate unit fraction edge lengths, and show that the volume is the same as would be found by multiplying the edge lengths of the prism. Apply the formulas V = l w h and V = b h to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with fractional edge lengths in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
- CCSS.Math.Content.6.G.A.3 Draw polygons in the coordinate plane given coordinates for the vertices; use coordinates to find the length of a side joining points with the same first coordinate or the same second coordinate. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
- CCSS.Math.Content.6.G.A.4 Represent three-dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
There is much public confusion about the Common Core (CC) and how it came to be.
I’d like to familiarize you with some of the general issues and respond to its impact on homeschooling now and in the future.
WHO WROTE THE STANDARDS?
No, Bill and Melinda Gates didn’t write them, though the Gates Foundation is making some serious contributions toward implementation, including biometric monitoring devices used to sense student engagement during lessons. The Gates’ want to help make sure students are paying attention, thus helping fund the development of devices to measure focus, as determined by eye movements, body temperature and other student reactions while learning (as if those measures guarantee learning by all kinds of students).
Some believe the CC initiative was state-led, thinking states voluntarily helped developed the standards, and then adopted them completely on their own. Not true, either. In fact, states had very little (many say, none) input as to what appears in the standards, and even to this day, are kept wholly in the dark about the rationale behind the project and the reasons for each individual marker. We are beginning to see a public outcry among teachers, many who have been held back from gathering information and some even been ridiculed for asking questions about anything to do with educational reform.
In reality, the standards were developed by private groups encouraged by other private groups touting names like “National Governors” and “Chief School Officers” — though these groups aren’t really comprised of teachers and superintendents as their names would imply, but of private individuals subscribing to these groups instead.
These groups have partnered with assessment companies and testing organizations with impressive names like Amplify and Achieve to develop examinations and ways to insure all markers are being met. Pearson — most everyone recognizes that name – played a part early on, as well. An organization called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) is formulating testing for common core English and math; such testing is slated to kick in next year.
The U.S. Department of Education was not directly involved in developing the core — at least not initially. However, Secretary of Education supported the goals, thus the U.S. is now spending millions of dollars to develop curriculum and assessments to align with the standards. The connection between the U.S. federal government and the standards remains nebulous, but many believe the ideals of one individual, head of the President’s “education policy team, wielded dominant influence upon the project very early in the game.
WHICH STATES HAVE ADOPTED CC?
Almost all of the fifty states, including the District of Columbia, have now adopted the Common Core. To date, Minnesota, Texas, Alaska, Virginia and Nebraska have not adopted the standards. Puerto Rico hasn’t, either.
Clicking on any state on THIS MAP will point to a page explaining the present status and/or contact agencies in each state.
DID STATES RECEIVE FUNDING TO ADOPT COMMON CORE?
Although participation in the core was originally “voluntary”, in truth, states were persuaded to adopt the initiative with the promise of receiving government Race to the Top program funding, as well as No Child Left Behind waivers. These were two programs developed to encourage states to embrace and implement education reform. Though many states already had standards in place (some even more rigorous than the new ones) these coercive measures proved tempting, leading most states to adopt the standards whether they were needed (or believed) or not.
Opponents of the Common Core view these tactics akin to dangling carrots before states, superintendents and districts already desperate for funds during the height of the recession. At approximately 2 minutes into THIS VIDEO, it is obvious how powerful the lure of these federal monies had upon the states.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING NOW?
Marketing the CC to the public began in earnest this year. Parents coast to coast were made to watch THIS VIDEO during orientations at schools this fall. Though it is not known the level of preparation, teachers received varying levels of orientation and training in teaching to the standards, as well. American citizens were sold stories of graduates who will be better prepared compete internationally, of all students receiving an equal education, and of a nation with increased workplace skills in the sciences and technologies. The general population heard about a curriculum more rigorous than those used in the past, topics more relevant than those previously taught, an education more competitive than ever before — one better able to keep up with skills required in colleges and universities, plus the needs of the global job market.
It appeared to CC followers, at least initially, the general public displayed one of two reactions — complete ignorance, accompanied by a trusting “schools know best” attitude; or, complete apathy, and not caring about the project at all.
However, as more and more Americans learn of CC and the press continues to debunk myths being perpetuated about its strengths, citizens are now learning about things like the total lack of evidence supporting CC, the harmful — even abusive – effects of testing, the provocative and sometimes pornographic literary assignments, and the absurdly senseless and overly-complex mathematical methods being forced upon school children.
Principals have cautioned against the dangers of last-minute decisions and untested assessments.
Children’s book authors, poets and others have begun to fight standardized testing and arbitrary measurements used to analyze the worth of our children.
Now, the battle has begun.