U.S. Senate Passes the Every Child Achieves Act 81-17

Photo credit: FEMA/Bill Koplitz (Public Domain)

Photo credit: FEMA/Bill Koplitz (Public Domain)

The U.S. Senate passed S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, on a 81 to 17 vote on Thursday afternoon spending seven days debating the bill.

The concerns addressed by American Principles in Action and others were largely not remedied by the amendment process.  On Wednesday an amendment offered by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) fixed an omission of a key privacy and parental rights protection. Specifically, ECAA had omitted the requirement that the federally dictated statewide standardized tests “do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information.”

Emmett McGroarty, director of education for American Principles in Action said in a released statement on Thursday prior to the final vote, “This is a good start. However, this addresses only one of the severe privacy and data collection problems with ECAA. Much more needs to be done to protect children.”

The U.S. Senate also voted down amendments by U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that would have affirmed a parent’s right to opt their students out from assessments, and an amendment from U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would have gutted the federal testing mandate.  Amendments proposed by U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Steve Daines (R-MT) that would have restored more local and state control also failed.

Several education policy experts are not pleased with the bill.

“This proposal does little if anything to restore state and local control of education. Moreover, it sets the stage for increased federal spending in the near future. The amendment included from Sen. Burr to change the funding formula for Title I does so once funding for the Title increases to $17 billion – nearly $3 billion over where it currently stands – likely creating momentum to increase spending in the near-term in order to achieve the funding change,” Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education, at the Heritage Foundation told Truth in American Education.

“The proposal still dictates testing schedules to states, maintains a labyrinth of federal programs, and perpetuates the notion that education dollars are best earmarked for school districts instead of students. It was, and remains, a huge missed opportunity for conservatives to restore dollars and decision-making to those closer situated to students,” Burke added.

“It is unfortunate that civil rights groups seem to think that billions of dollars for the education of low-income children will be useful, when in 50 years, the needle hasn’t moved in reading.  And the needle won’t move, so long as re-authorizations of ESEA allow the bulk of Title I money to be spent on the costs associated with hiring academically underqualified Reading teachers and aides.  Why civil rights groups think that is a quid pro quo, they need to explain to those of us who think low-income children would benefit from academically qualified teachers,” retired University of Arkansas professor of education reform Sandra Stotsky said in a statement made to Truth in American Education.

“I think two things are clear from the bill’s passage. First, it’s clear that politicians don’t feel safe rolling back the federal role in education. Some of them tell us they believe in this, but most of them don’t actually do it. So voters need to start holding them accountable, with all the usual means: Asking cranky questions in townhalls, calling their offices when votes like this come up, and primarying them if they don’t respond,” Joy Pullmann, education research fellow at the Heartland Institute, told Truth in American Education.

“Second, I also think it’s clear that politicians feel safe ignoring their constituents’ desires on education. Look, both the left and the right want testing reduced and real data privacy protections enacted. These are bipartisan issues. But our bipartisan leaders aren’t listening. They should pay for that. If they don’t, well, it’s clear they’re right: That voters don’t really care about education, so we’re going to let the kleptocracy continue to run everything from Washington,” Pullmann added.

The roll call of the vote:

YEAs —81
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Boozman (R-AR)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Burr (R-NC)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Capito (R-WV)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cassidy (R-LA)
Coats (R-IN)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Cotton (R-AR)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Enzi (R-WY)
Ernst (R-IA)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Franken (D-MN)
Gardner (R-CO)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Heller (R-NV)
Hirono (D-HI)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Kirk (R-IL)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lankford (R-OK)
Leahy (D-VT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Perdue (R-GA)
Peters (D-MI)
Portman (R-OH)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rounds (R-SD)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Sullivan (R-AK)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Toomey (R-PA)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wicker (R-MS)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs —17
Blunt (R-MO)
Booker (D-NJ)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ)
Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)
Not Voting – 2
Graham (R-SC) Nelson (D-FL)

NGA Chair Gov. Mary Fallin Target of Campaign to End Common Core

Gov-Fallin-1American Principles Project, Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America, Home School Legal Defense Association and several other grassroots conservative groups launched a campaign urging the Chair of the National Governors Association, Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK), to end the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  The NGA, along with the Council of Chief State School Officers, are co-owners of the copyright to the Common Core.

Fallin is facing a Common Core repeal bill that has passed both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature with an amended version that will need to be considered.  Governor Fallin has indicated that she is keeping an open mind about the bill, but it would put her in a strange position being chair of the NGA.

The letter has been signed by some of the leading figures in the fight to stop the Common Core State Standards such as Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins of American Principles Project, Phyllis Schlafly the Founder and President of Eagle Forum, Jamie Gass and Jim Stergois of the Pioneer Institute, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute, Michael Farris of ParentalRights.org  and Stacy Mott the Founder and President of Smart Girl Politics Action.

The letter to Fallin states in part:

NGA’s activities, including its ownership, development and propagation of the Common Core,have caused profound harm to our constitutional structure.  NGA has enabled corporations and other private interests to drive education policy and, concomitantly, compromised the power of parents.  It has enlisted the power of the federal government to bring about these changes and, in so doing, has weakened the power of states to defend the authority and rights of parents and other citizens.

More specifically, NGA has assisted the federal government in employing a strategy against the states that has divided and conquered the state checks and balances that are intended to guard against federal overreach.  It has presided over the development of math standards that lock children into a defective education, one that does not prepare children for studies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) or for admission to competitive public and private universities.  It has presided over the development of English standards that fail to prepare children for authentic college work in the humanities and that weaken the formation of strong citizen-leaders and individuals of substance who are fully capable of exercising their liberties.

The pushback against the Common Core rests on parents’ love for their children and their defense of the Constitution that protects their rights to form their children and direct their education.  It is a movement based on truth, and on highly informed citizens –citizens who follow in the footsteps of the Founders.  It is a movement that continues to grow and which will be victorious.

The letter is being sent along with a 13-page statement addressing the unconstitutionality of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  Emmett McGroarty, Director of APP Education, with American Principles Project in a released statement said, “The American people know that government has drifted away from them and no longer responds to their will,” said APP Education Director Emmett McGroarty. “This letter details how state government has been turned into the tool of the federal executive branch, rather than responding to the will of the people.”

McGroarty continued, “Governor Fallin, though, has a wonderful opportunity to stand up for the American people and the Constitution that is intended to protect their rights, including their right to have a say in what their children learn and who teaches it to them.”

Parents, teachers and community members are encouraged to add their names to the letter here.

Cross-posted from Caffeinated Thoughts.

Brookings Institute: States Using Common Core Math Standards Show Little Progress

imageThe Brookings Institution released a report that undermines the belief that the Common Core will better prepare students for STEM.  If that is the case and these standards are so great why are states with standards that are the most dissimilar to the Common Core have better assessment scores?

The progress report proceeds along two lines of inquiry. First, a ranking system crafted by researchers at Michigan State University is employed to evaluate progress on NAEP from 2009–2013. The MSU experts found that states with math standards that were similar to the Common Core in 2009 scored higher on the eighth grade NAEP that year compared to states with standards dislike the Common Core. The current study examines data from the NAEP tests conducted in 2011 and 2013 and asks whether the same finding holds for subsequent changes in NAEP scores. Have the states with CCSS-like standards made greater gains on the eighth grade NAEP since 2009? It turns out they have not.

The second line of inquiry utilizes a rubric that categorizes each state on the strength of its implementation of CCSS.  NAEP gains were again compared.  Here the news was more encouraging for the Common Core.  States with stronger implementation of the CCSS have made larger NAEP gains.  The downside to this optimistic finding is the difference is quite small.  If Common Core is eventually going to fulfill the soaring expectations of its supporters, much greater progress must become evident.

The authors later write:

Supporters of Common Core argue that strong, effective standards will sweep away such skepticism by producing lasting, significant gains in student learning.  So far at least–and it is admittedly the early innings of a long ball game–there are no signs of such an impressive accomplishment.

The Daily Caller interviews Neal McClusky of the Cato Institute and Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute:

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, noted that Brookings isn’t typically known for publishing arch conservative opinions.

“This study, from the hardly Tea Party aligned Brookings Institution, is another nail in the coffin of the over-hyped promises of many Core advocates,” he told The Daily Caller.

The study provides useful evidence than Common Core in theory and Common Core in practice are two very different things, said McCluskey.

“It’s increasingly clear that even if the Core is a significant uptick in rigor over previous standards in many states–a contested ‘if’–translating that into improved academic performance is very difficult,” he said.

Joy Pullman, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News, said that the Brookings study might not be quite so damning, but only because its research was based on a wildly flawed pro-Common Core study.

“The authors [of the original study] basically played with their data to push their conclusion that Common-Core lookalike states had higher performance,” she told TheDC. “So this new study bases its analysis on the old study’s rating scale, which itself is flawed.”

In either case, there’s little solid data to suggest that Common Core-aligned states perform better on math. Pullman pointed to a portion of the Brookings analysis that predicted Common Core would make no difference in students’ math performances for a least a quarter century.

“What a horrific condemnation of the piles of mandates, taxpayer money, teacher time, and disruption to students Common Core has caused,” she said. “All that — so far for nothing, and with no signs of any positive return in sight.”

Early Childhood Standards of Common Core are Developmentally Inappropriate

Megan Koschnick(Washington, DC) Today the American Principles Project (APP), in conjunction with the Pioneer Institute and the Heartland Institute, released a video of Dr. Megan Koschnick’s presentation discussing how certain aspects of the Common Core standards are developmentally and age inappropriate.  Dr. Koschnick gave her presentation at a September 9, 2013 conference at the University of Notre Dame.  APP, Heartland, and Pioneer sponsored the conference, entitled “The Changing Role of Education in America: Consequences of the Common Core.”

“Why do we care if [Common Core standards] are age inappropriate? Well, you can answer that with one word – stress,” said Dr. Megan Koschnick during her presentation. “Instead of thinking about what’s developmentally appropriate for kindergarteners, they are thinking [college] is where we want this kindergartener to end up, so let’s back track down to kindergarten and have kindergarteners work on these skills from an early age. This can cause major stress for the child because they are not prepared for this level of education.”

Dr. Koschnick’s presentation echoes the concerns set forth in the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative (March 2, 2010) and with the concerns set forth in the The Answer Sheet blog in the Washington Post, entitled A Tough Critique of Common Core on Early Childhood Education (January 29, 2013). This blog, written by Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, quoted Dr. Carla Horowitz of the Yale Child Study Center as stating, “The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”

Reactions to Dr. Koschnick’s presentation at the Notre Dame conference, by those who were in attendance, include:

Khadine Ritter of Ohio:  “As a mother of two young children, I am astounded by the irresponsibility of those in government who seemingly never consulted child development experts to determine if these standards were age appropriate.  They are toying with a generation of students, but we won’t see the detrimental consequences until it is too late. I hope public officials will now do their homework and watch Dr. Koschnick’s important presentation.”

Professor Gerard Bradley of University of Notre Dame Law School:  “Many critical observers of Common Core have focused upon the inadequate math and ELA standards at the high school end of education — and rightly so.  But, Dr. Koschnick’s arresting presentation tells us that there is much to criticize at the front end, as well.”

APP Education Director Emmett McGroarty:  “Dr. Koschnick sets forth her concerns as a child psychologist in clear, but troubling, detail.  I urge every parent, every teacher, and every administrator to watch Dr. Koschnick’s presentation and to read the Joint Statement and the blog article by Mr. Miller and Ms. Carlsson-Paige.”

Heartland Institute’s Joy Pullman:  "Dr. Koschnick’s analysis makes it clear what other early childhood professionals have said: Common Core asks small children to behave like little adults, and they are not little adults. Anyone who cares for a small child could tell you this. This is a further consequence of the Common Core lead writers’ lack of experience and professional reputation, and of its committees excluding experts in early childhood."

Jamie Gass, Director of Pioneer Institute’s Center for School Reform: "In addition to the weaker academic content in Common Core’s ELA and math standards, it now appears that due to haste and inexperience Common Core’s authors also introduce material to schoolchildren at developmentally inappropriate ages. Given this new and troubling information drawn from Dr. Koschnick’s analysis, it’s not difficult to see why parents and a growing number of child psychologists across the country are up in arms over Common Core’s deficiencies."

You can watch the video of Dr. Koschnick’s full presentation here or below:

Common Core Conference at the University of Notre Dame

notre-dame-golden-domeFrom FightCommonCore.com, this will be a great conference to be held next month at Notre Dame University in Indiana.

The Changing Role of Education in America: Consequences of the Common Core

University of Notre Dame
September 9, 2013

You can register online here.

Please join us for a one-day conference at the Notre Dame Conference Center in South Bend, Indiana, as leading experts from across the country discuss the changing landscape of the American education system and the implications of the new Common Core Standards.

Sponsored by: American Principles Project, Heartland Institute, Pioneer Institute

Conference Program:

9:00 -9:20 Welcome and Opening Remarks
Professor Gerard V. Bradley, Notre Dame Law School

9:20-10:00 History of Education in America
Dr. Williamson M. Evers, Hoover Institute at Stanford University

Purpose of Education in American Society
Professor Patrick Deneen, University of Notre Dame

10:10-10:30 Coffee Break

10:45-11:45 Panel on Federalism, Privacy and Common Core
Joy Pullman, Heartland Institute; Emmett McGroarty, J.D., APP; Jane Robbins, J.D., APP; Dr. Williamson M. Evers, Hoover Institute at Stanford University

11:45-12:15 Common Core Development
Prof. James Milgram, Stanford University; Prof. Sandra Stotsky, University of Arkansas; Dr. Megan Koschnick

12:15-1:30 Lunch
Address by Andrew Kern, President of CiRCE Institute

1:30-2:45 Mathematics
Prof. James Milgram, University of Stanford; Ze’ev Wurman, Hoover Institute; Heather Crossin, Parent

2:45-3:00 Coffee Break

3:00-4:15 English Language Arts
Prof. Sandra Stotsky, University of Arkansas; Prof. Terrence Moore, Hillsdale College; Professor Patrick Deneen, Notre Dame University; Erin Tuttle, Parent

4:15-5:15 Religious Schools, Private Schools, Home School Families
William Estrada, JD, Home School Legal Defense Association; Jamie Gass, Pioneer Institute; Prof. Terrence Moore, Hillsdale College;
5:15-5:30 Closing Remarks

The Changing Role of Education in America: Consequences of the Common Core

Federalism vs. Centralization of Educational Standards and Testing: Panelists will discuss the role of the federal government versus that of the state and local community in educating citizens. They will explore the shifting purpose of the education system to meet the needs of the workforce at the expense of the needs of the citizen and society.

State-Led Effort vs. Foundations and Special-Interest Groups: Panelists involved in the
development of the Common Core Standards will discuss the credentials of those who created the Standards, the lack of state involvement, and the influence of private foundations and special-interest groups.

International Benchmarking and American Competitiveness: Panelists will analyze the lack of international benchmarking of the Standards, and explain why it will place American students years behind their international counterparts in mathematics and English and damage economic competitiveness.

You can register online here.

Photo credit: Dan Dzurisin via Flickr (CC-By-NC-ND 2.0)

Common Core Advocates Refuse to Debate in Colorado

Parent Led Reform is hosting a Common Core Community Forum on Monday, August 12th from 7:30p-9p (MDT) in Centennial, CO.  Their intent was to have both sides of the issue presented, but we received word today that those who had previously committed to advocated for the Common Core have pulled out.  Seven organizations that advocate for the Common Core were invited to send representation with expenses paid, but they declined.

What are they afraid of?

If you live in Colorado, come learn what Common Core supporters are afraid of:

Common Core Community Forum

Monday, August 12th 7:30p – 9:00p (MST)

Koelbel Library (5955 S. Holly St., Centennial, CO)

Colorado Board of Education Chair Paul Lundeen was originally going to moderate, but now John Ransom from Town Hall Finance will moderate instead out of respect for Mr. Lundeen.

The panelists include: Shane Vander Hart (American Principles Project, Truth In American Education), Joy Pullmann (Heartland Institute), Jamie Gass (Pioneer Institute), and Treon Goossen (Colorado State Coordinator for ParentalRights.org)

General admission for the event is $10.00, you can register here.

Reclaiming Education Freedom: The Fight to Stop Common Core National Standards and Tests

The Heritage Foundation and Claire Boothe Luce Foundation had a great event for conservative women discussing the Common Core. I caught about the last 20 minutes of it. Lindsey Burke of Heritage spoke first, then Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute gave her remarks. They ended with a brief Q&A session. The video is now available which you can watch below.


Common Core Common Sense: Why It’s Illiberal and Unconstitutional

By Dr. Daniel B. Coupland

On May 29th, 2009, Arne Duncan, the new Secretary of Education for the Obama Administration, gave a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. In the speech, he said,

We want to raise the bar dramatically in terms of high standards. What we have had as a country, I’m convinced, is what we call a race to the bottom. We have 50 different standards, 50 different goal posts. And due to political pressure, those have been dumbed down. We want to fundamentally reverse that. We want common, career-ready internationally benchmarked standards.

In this short paragraph, the Secretary of Education identified the problems of the past and set a new vision for education in this country. He correctly assessed the damage created by the Bush Administration’s Education policy from 2002 known as No Child Left Behind (or NCLB). While supporters of NCLB can point to limited success in a few areas, the Bush Administration’s education policy left the nation’s schools in a bureaucratic mess. In the National Press Club speech, the new Secretary of Education was arguing that the mess was created by—what he and others have called—a “patchwork of state standards” that left states to compete in a fundamentally flawed and unfair process for limited federal funds. Secretary Duncan’s argument—presented at the National Press Club and elsewhere—was very persuasive to those in the education community who had suffered under the separate and very unequal policies of the era know as No Child Left Behind. Four years after Arne Duncan’s 2009 speech, all but a handful of states have signed on to a common set of curricular standards known as Common Core.

Common Core will now provide the framework for what students learn in math and English language arts, but it will also establish two federally funded and approved tests that will replace what states currently use to measure students’ academic success. Afraid to be left out of the new national education marketplace, private companies are quickly trying to align themselves with the Common Core standards. In order to survive in the Common Core era, textbook publishers and other education-related industries must show how their materials meet these national standards. SAT and ACT are now aligned to Common Core. Those who think they can avoid the Common Core by sending their children to private schools or by homeschooling should think again. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford 10—two popular tests of private schools and homeschool parents—will also be aligned to Common Core.

Within a few short years, Common Core has gone from virtual unknown to national educational powerhouse that may influence the formal education of some 50 million K-12 students in America. In the next few minutes, I’ll try to give you some insight on what Common Core is, what the major arguments are both for and against Common Core, and I will also try to show how these arguments are missing the most important ideas about education altogether. But first, I will start with a brief history.

A Brief History of Educational Standards in America

The idea of a rich educational experience finds its roots deep in American history. The Founders of this country believed an “informed citizenry” was necessary for good government. In the early 1800s, Horace Mann continued this legacy by arguing for widespread public education. Today, Horace Mann is known as the “Father of the Common School Movement.” In the late 1800s, politicians and social leaders looked to the schools to solve pressing social needs brought on by industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. Many leading education theorists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century —including John Dewey, William H. Kilpatrick, G. Stanley Hall, and others—developed or promoted progressive solutions to these pressing social needs. For the first half of the 20th Century, progressive theories—such as child-centered pedagogy and practical/work-related curricula—dominated much of the education landscape.

In October of 1957, the United States was awakened from its educational malaise when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik, the first space satellite, into orbit. This one event signaled America’s educational decline and brought attention to the need for a return to rich content—at least in the fields of math, science, and foreign languages. But these reforms were quickly lost in the cultural turmoil of the 1960s and early 1970s, and schools once again offered a smorgasbord of academically week classes. Students were earning academic credit in courses titled “personal relationships,” “what’s happening,” and “girl talk,” and they were receiving academic credit for extra-curricular activities such as “student government,” “mass media,” and “cheerleading.”

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published a landmark study on American education titled A Nation at Risk, which warned that the country’s economic, political, and cultural future was threatened by our weak education system. The report stated the now famous lines,

Our nation is at risk, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people…If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.

A Nation at Risk signaled a turning point in American Education and brought about a renewed focus on what Americans should know and be able to do. E.D. Hirsch’s 1987 book, Cultural Literacy, argued that schools should focus on the basics and pass along “core knowledge” that every educated American should know. But many in the education establishment resisted these content-based reforms and continued to push a progressive agenda for America’s schools.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and the end of the Cold War, international trade boomed, and many countries had greater opportunities to participate in the global marketplace. Globalization led to international comparisons across a variety of social indicators—including education. Many of the Asian countries—with whom we were now competing—seemed to moving further and further ahead of the United States. One of the obvious features of the education in these countries was the existence of clear national education standards. Many reformers pushed the idea that if the United States was going to compete in the international marketplace, the quality of education in the entire country would have to improve. They also concluded that such improvement would only occur if students were held to high academic standards.

In 1989, President George Bush Sr. hosted an education summit for the nation’s governors on academic standards and assessment. A charismatic governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton took the lead in crafting a set of goals for increasing academic achievement in America. And when Clinton defeated Bush for the presidency three years later, the new president used these goals to craft his signature education policy know as Goals 2000. Goals 2000 provided money for each state to develop its own standards based on a national template. Critics of this initiative claimed that this effort violated the longstanding principle established by the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that education is the responsibility of the states. But the Clinton administration countered that the national standards were meant to be only a template for the states to follow and that each state was ultimately responsible for it
s own standards. Interestingly, Goals 2000 also authorized the creation of an approval board which would certify that states standards had indeed matched the national template. This approval board, however, never materialized because in the 1994 midterm election, Republicans gained the majority in Congress and quickly abolished it.

Even without the federal board, the effort to create state standards based on a national template continued, and in the mid-1990s professional subject-specific organizations released national standards for history, English, and math. The general public assumed that these standards would represent the basic knowledge and skills that students would need to know in a particular subject, but they soon discovered that these professional organizations had used this federally funded project to push unproven and, in a few cases, radical ideas within academic fields. Public opposition to these national standards spread quickly. Most states avoided the controversy of the national standards by creating their own unique standards. If there was one thing in common across state standards it was their emphasis on less controversial skills—such as “critical thinking,” “cooperative learning,” and “shared understanding”—rather than more concrete statements about specific ideas, people, and books that students should read.

In 2001, President George W. Bush pushed his education policy—known as No Child Left Behind (or NCLB)—which—like those before it—promised to increase student achievement by encouraging states to set high standards and to develop assessments based on those standards. But unlike the initiatives before it, NCLB required states to test all students in particular subjects and at particular grade levels in order to receive federal funding.

Looking back, most education experts—on both right and left—concluded that NCLB had failed to deliver real and lasting success. NCLB created an environment where “teaching to the test” became status quo. And what made matter worse is that from state-to-state, the tests were all different. Under NCLB, each state had its own academic standards that it was expected to meet. And because federal money was based on each state meeting its own standards, there was little incentive for states to keep the academic bar high. In an effort to show higher proficiency in student achievement, states began lowering proficiency levels in what Secretary Duncan referred to as a “race to the bottom.” By the end of the decade, many in the education community were looking for an alternative to the “separate-and-unequal” approach to standards of NCLB.

Common Core

In 2007, two national trade organizations—the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers—started work on a common set of curriculum standards in English language arts and mathematics. In December of 2008, these two groups produced a document on national education standards that would guide the Obama Administration during its transition into office. Two months later, the Secretary of Education announced a federal education grant program known as “Race to the Top” (the name is an obvious nod to the failures of No Child Left Behind). This program included money from the 2009 “Stimulus Bill,” which was to be used by states to improve academic standards and assessments. In order to receive Race to the Top grants, state had to commit to “a set of content standards that define what students must know and be able to do and that are substantially identical across all states in a consortium.” In 2011, the Obama administration made the decision to adopt common standards even easier. Most states were still obligated to meet onerous NCLB requirements. The U.S. Department of Education promised NCLB waivers to states that adopted a common set of college- and career- ready standards and assessments. And while the U.S. Department of Education did not require states to adopt the Common Core specifically, these standards were—and still are—the only standards that met the Education Department’s criteria.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia adopted the Common Core standards. Minnesota adopted the English language arts standards, but it rejected the math. Initially, only Alaska and Texas rejected Common Core, but in the end, Virginia and Nebraska did too.

Arguments FOR Common Core

The idea of common academic standards across all states is quite appealing to many in the field of education because it seems to cure some obvious and longstanding problems. Allow me to highlight two of the most important.

First, our mobile society makes it easy for families to pick up and move. As E.D. Hirsch points out in his book The Knowledge Deficit (2006),

In a typical American school district, the average rate at which students transfer in and out of schools during the academic year is about one third. In a typical inner-city school, only about half of the students who start in September are still there in May—a mobility rate of 50 percent. (111)

When students move from school to school—especially when these moves are across state lines, they often experience a fractured education filled with huge gaps or boring repetitions. However, if all schools are meeting the same academic standards, the students have a greater chance of finding a relatively consistent education experience regardless of where they move within the country. In theory a student should be able to move from Maine to California with little disruption in his education.

Second, for years, the United States has lagged behind many industrialized nations in key academic areas such as math and science. Since Sputnik, policymakers have tried to craft a coherent plan to improve our country’s standing in these subjects areas, but they have struggled to do so in light of the “patchwork of state standards.” Pointing to the failures of NCLB, proponents of Common Core argue that having a common set of academically rigorous standards for the entire country would allow policymakers to craft a coherent plan for improving American education. Many corporate leaders and politicians argue that we are unable to compete as a nation in a global society if every state is doing its own thing.

Arguments AGAINST Common Core

As you can probably guess, Common Core has its critics, who typically focus one or more of the following concerns.

1. Cost

Critics claim that Common Core will be very expensive to implement and maintain. The only study on the cost of implementing Common Core standards and assessment nationwide estimated a price tag of about $16 billion over seven years. But the truth of the matter is that no one really knows what the final price tag for Common Core will be. For this reason—and others—critics have already labeled this initiative ObamaCore. Critics of Common Core charge that most states acted irresponsibly when they adopted the standards because they did not first have a firm understanding of its price tag. Many states saw the Race to the Top funds as a way to pay for immediate education expenses and failed to see that they were signing on to something that would be far more expensive.

2. Quality

Critics argue that rather than pushing all states toward high standards, Common Core is encouraging a coalescence in the mediocre middle—so, for example, while Mississippi’s standards appear to get stronger by adopting Common Core, the standards in Massachusetts get weaker. Several curriculum experts—including Ze’ev Wurman, Sandra Stotsky, and James Milgram—have examined the math an
d English language arts standards very carefully, and they have discovered some alarming concerns. In fact, because of these concerns and others, both Stotsky and Milgram—who served on the Common Core’s validation committee—refused to sign the final validation report.

3. Privacy

The 2009 “Stimulus Bill” required states to begin tracking students in a database—starting in their preschool years to their entry into the workforce. This database will link students’ results on Common Core-related assessments to other private personal information. This database will be available to a wide variety of departments within the federal government. While supporters of Common Core claim that the system employs measures to protect the anonymity of students, critics have pointed to studies that demonstrate how these measure might not be as secure as supporters assume. But the larger issue remains about whether collecting such private information is consistent with the role of government expressed by the Founders.

4. Constitutionality

The biggest concern of Common Core critics to date has been the federal government’s ever-increasing role in education. The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution established the principle that the “power” to oversee education belongs to the states. This longstanding principle of local control of education is reiterated throughout our laws and government codes. For generations, Americans have understood that the constitutional authority for education rests with the states, not the federal government. Critics of Common Core see these standards as federal overreach and a violation of both the letter and spirit of federal education law and the U.S. Constitution.

Supporters of Common Core like to portray these critics as far-right extremists who are paranoid about a government takeover. But this is not true. Diane Ravitch, a respected historian of American education, is hardly a darling of the far right—especially in recent years. On Feb. 26th of this year, Ravitch wrote the following in a piece titled “Why I Oppose Common Core Standards.” Her comments below summarize many of the central concerns that most critics have.

I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school.

Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government…

​For the past two years, I have steadfastly insisted that I was neither for nor against the Common Core standards. I was agnostic. I wanted to see how they worked in practice…

After much deliberation,…I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.

Ravitch then goes on to explain her opposition to Common Core:

Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states. ​In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash.

The response from Common Core supporters regarding federal overreach has been surprising weak. Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the D.C. public schools and a well-known education reformer, is a strong supporter of Common Core. In a speech last Thursday to political and business leaders in my home state, she said,

The vast majority of states have adopted the standards. I’ve heard some rumblings from folks who say we don’t like it when the federal government is telling us what to do. We don’t like that. You know what you should not like? The fact that China is kicking our butts right now. Get over feeling bad about the federal government and feel bad that our kids are not competing.

I certainly hope that this country’s commitment to the Constitution does not simply hang on something as fragile as a “feeling” that we need to “get over.” Rhee’s cavalier critique of those who are concerned about federal overreach is troubling, but I—for one—appreciate her honesty. Most supporters of Common Core try to hide behind words like “state-led” and “voluntary.” But anyone willing take an honest look at what transpired between 2009 and 2011 would conclude that many of these cash-strapped states already under the burden of budget shortfalls and expensive NCLB requirements were seduced by a high pressured, time sensitive sales pitch for adopting the standards that included relief in the form of money and waivers. Yes, the states are ultimately responsible for selling their constitutional birthright for a bowl of porridge, and given more time, perhaps many more states might have rejected such a poor bargain. But perhaps, it’s not too late.

The Retreat

Initially, Common Core experienced widespread bi-partisan support. Even some prominent Republican politicians—such as Jeb Bush of Florida, Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Mitch Daniels of Indiana—were strong supporters of Common Core. But support for Common Core seems to be weakening, and some states that originally adopted the standards are starting to take a second look.

This spring, the Michigan House of Representatives voted essentially to defund the implementation of Common Core standards and their related tests. In Indiana, the State Senate voted to delay implementation of Common Core so that the State Board of Education could get a better understanding of the quality, cost, and loss of local control associated with implementation of the standards and related assessments. In April, Indiana’s new governor, Mike Pence, agreed to take “a long, hard look” at Common Core and quickly added that he was one of a only few politicians initially to oppose No Child Left Behind.

Other states are considering legislative action to delay or defund Common Core standards and assessments. Within the last nine months, the following states have held public forums or formal legislative hearings to discuss delaying or defunding Common Core: South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In April, The Republican National Committee passed an anti-Common Core resolution stating that the RNC “rejects the [Common Core] plan which creates and fits the country with a nationwide straitjacket on academic freedom and achievement.”

Never to be outdone, Texas boldly reiterated its opposition to the Common Core standards. In early May, the Texas House of Representatives formally rejected the standards by a margin of 140-2.

Last month, a poll of “education insiders,” which included national and state education leaders, found that support for Common Core is beginning to fade. The poll showed that 63% of those polled believe that states will implement some sort of moratorium on Common Core.

And it would be wrong to assume that opposition to Common Core is coming only from the right. Recently, Randi Weingarten, president of the nation’s second largest teachers union with about 1 million members, called for a moratorium on the use of standardized tests ba
sed on Common Core standards. Ms. Weingarten, initially a strong supporter of the Common Core standards, is concerned that aspects of Common Core have been poorly implemented and that without a “mid-course correction,” the entire effort will fall apart. She said recently that “The Common Core is in trouble. There is a serious backlash in lots of different ways, on the right and on the left.”

Something Much More Fundamental

The idea of common, nationwide standards is appealing, and as I mentioned above, the benefits of such standards should not be ignored. But the concerns over Common Core—and especially its implementation—are real and troubling. Any of these concerns—cost, mediocrity, and federal overreach—are serious enough that states should consider pausing and, perhaps, ultimately repealing their adoption of these standards. But a much more fundamental concern exists about Common Core that goes to the heart of any educational experience.

Recall Secretary Duncan’s comments from the beginning of my talk. He said, “We want common, career ready…standards.” The phrase “career-ready” or “college- and career-ready” appear throughout the Common Core standards. The opening page of the Common Core document includes eight references to “college- and career-“ readiness. If any other goal is mentioned, such as literacy, it is subservient to this overarching goal. The catchphrase for the Common Core—printed below its logo—is “Preparing America’s Students for College & Career.” Common Core’s mission statement reflects this notion as well. Here is the entire mission statement:

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in a global economy.

With such a mission, it is easy to see why so many politicians and business leaders support Common Core. Even critics of Common Core have adopted the “college- and career-ready” mantra and now spend much of their time arguing how Common Core will not prepare students for the working world. I understand that this line of attack is necessary if they have any hope of stopping Common Core. But what I would like for us to consider here today is whether or not career preparation for a “global economy” should be the ultimate educational goal in America.

In the 1920s and 30s, progressive educators tried to devalue an impractical liberal arts education and saw schools as mechanisms for preparing students for particular roles within the social structure. During this era, schooling became job preparation.

But in the ancient world, job preparation was known as “servile education” because it prepared the student to “serve” a master in a particular kind of work. Modern theorists would say that I am being ridiculous to associate the ancient notion of “servile education” to “skills for the 21st century” which will allow students to adapt to an ever-changing society. But as long as students are told that the end of education is a job or career, they will forever be servants of some master.

Joy Pullmann, an education policy analyst for the Heartland Institute (and a Hillsdale graduate), recently won the Robert Novak award to study and write about Common Core. Pullman is quickly becoming one of the nation’s experts on Common Core. At a recent hearing in Wisconsin on Common Core Standards, Ms. Pullman addressed Common Core’s misguided focus.

[I]n a self-governing nation we need citizens who can govern themselves. The ability to support oneself with meaningful work is an important part, but only a part, of self-government. When a nation expands workforce training so that it crowds out the other things that rightly belong in education, we end up turning out neither good workers nor good citizens.

The ancients knew that in order for men to be truly free, they must have a liberal education that includes study of literature and history, mathematics and science, music and art. Yes, man is made for work, but he is also made for so much more. Education should be about the highest things. We should study these things—stars, plant cells, square roots, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Mozart’s Requiem, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—not simply because they will get us into the right college or a particular line of work; rather, we study these noble things because they can tell us who we are, why we are here, and what our relationship is to each other as human beings and to the physical world that surrounds us.

Commenting on the Common Core standards, Anthony Esolen, English professor at Providence College, said,

[W]hat appalls me most about the standards…is the cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form. It is sheer ignorance of the life of the imagination. We are not programming machines. We are teaching children…We are to be forming the minds, and hearts of men and women…[and we should] raise them to be human beings, honoring what is good and right, cherishing what is beautiful.

If education in America has become—as Common Core openly declares—preparation for work in a global economy, then the situation is far worse than Common Core critics anticipated, and the concerns about the cost, the quality, and, yes, even the constitutionality of Common Core pale in comparison to the concern for the hearts, minds, and souls of America’s children.

Dr. Daniel P. Coupland is an associate professor of education at Hillsdale College in Michigan.  This article is from prepared remarks for a speech that Dr. Coupland gave on June 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C.  Published with permission of the author.

“State-Led” Common Core Primarily Had Only Five Writers

Joy Pullmann at School Reform News wrote an excellent piece that helps to further demonstrate that the Common Core State Standards were not state-led.  While there were many people who served on various committees and work groups all of the feedback was filtered by only five people.

After giving a brief history of what led to the development of the Common Core, Pullman writes:

By July 1, 2009, NGA and CCSSO had formed more committees. There were two work groups, whose dozen members in math and English wrote the standards. These included no teachers, but did include a few professors. Second were two feedback groups, who were supposed to provide research and advice to the writers. Those had 18 members each, who were mostly professors but included one math teacher. Third was the validation committee, announced in September 2009, which acted as the final gate for Common Core. Their job was to “ensure [the standards] are research and evidence-based.”

While many people sat on these various committees, only one in sixty was a classroom teacher,according to teaching coach and blogger Anthony Cody.  All of the standards writing and discussions were sealed by confidentiality agreements, and held in private. While Linn says six states sent intensive teacher and staff feedback, committee members weren’t sure what effect their advice had, said Mark Bauerlein, an Emory University professor who sat on a feedback committee.

“I have no idea how much influence committee members had on final product. Some of the things I advised made their way into the standards. Some of them didn’t. I’m not sure why or how,” he said. He said those who would know were the standards’ lead writers: David Coleman and Susan Pimentel in English, and Jason Zimba, Phil Daro, and William McCallum in math. Of these, only McCallum had previous experience writing standards.

Several people on the validation committee said the same: They had no idea what happened to their comments once they submitted them. (emphasis mine)

Then we see exactly how transparent the Common Core developers were:

Five of 29 validation committee members refused to sign off on Common Core. The validation committee’s final report does not mention their objections. Its author later told Sandra Stotsky, another committee member, he had never received any written objections from committee facilitators, she said, although she and several others had sent them. He would have included them, he told her.

Be sure to read her full article here.

#StopCommonCore Twitter Rally Part Deux

Parent Led Reform (@parentledreform) is graciously hosting our 2nd #StopCommonCore Twitter Rally.  Our follow-up rally is this Thursday, May 2nd at 9:00p (EDT)/8:00p (CDT). The #StopCommonCore Twitter Rally is a collaborative project in partnership with Truth In American Education (@TruthinAmEd), and designed to share the research diligently collected by parents and citizens concerned about the government’s push for national common standards in education.  This rally is an encore of the April 16th #StopCommonCore Twitter event, which reached 2,493,308 Twitter users.

“We are thrilled about the amazing turnout to share awareness of the concerns of Common Core Standards,” said Karin Piper, spokesperson for Parent Led Reform. “Parent Led Reform opposes a lock-step approach to education that takes the focus away from the student and decisions away from the parent and so pleased to work in collaboration with organizations, parents, educators and citizens across the country to share these concerns.”

“The last Twitter rally was amazing and we were thankful to be able to elevate the Common Core State Standards issue using this social media platform,” said Shane Vander Hart, a Truth in American Education advocate and blogger.  “It is important for parents and citizens to become informed about this under-the-radar revolution in education policy so they can make their voices heard with school boards, state legislatures and Congress.”

The #StopCommonCore Twitter Rally features a panel of experts who are planning on answering questions by the moderator, as well as taking live questions from Twitter users across the nation. The panelists are Shane Vander Hart (@shanevanderhart) of Truth in American Education, William Estrada (@will_estrada)  of Home School Legal Defense Association, Joy Pullmann (@joypullmann) of  Heartland Institute, Ben DeGrow (@BenDegrow) of the Independence Institute, and Emmett McGroarty (@approject) of American Principles Project .

This rally is also being supported by Pioneer Institute (@pioneerboston), Americans for Prosperity (@afphq), Heartland Institute (@heartlandinst), Independence Institute (@i2idotorg),  American Principles Project (@approject),  FreedomWorks (@FreedomWorks), and  Home School Legal Defense Association (@hslda).

You can participate in the Twitter Rally here or by just searching and using the hashtag #StopCommonCore.