A Core Concern
KSAL Staff - August 13, 2013 8:26 am
The Hutchinson News:
Overblown concerns about Common Core won’t improve education
Some political groups and Kansas lawmakers who are pushing against the adoption of Common Core Standards in public schools could use a dose of education, and perhaps something to refresh their memories.
Common Core standards have been adopted as a way to measure student progress and achievement in English language arts and math in 45 states. They are, more or less, the new and improved version of No Child Left Behind, which was one of the signature initiatives of former President George W. Bush.
It is a state-led effort, developed by the National Governors Association, along with education experts throughout the nation. Its aim is to establish benchmarks that states can use to ensure students have the necessary skills to enter college or the work force.
It was not developed by the federal government and is not a sinister plot to nationalize the country’s public education system. It’s an effort, much like NCLB, to improve educational outcomes for U.S. students – and, like NCLB, federal education dollars have been tied to adoption of the Common Core standards, which is not a new practice by the federal government.
Yet, that didn’t stop some lawmakers from attempting to derail Common Core at the end of the regular legislative session in Topeka. It didn’t stop the creation of a group, Kansans Against Common Core, which hopes to remove Kansas as a participating state. And it didn’t stop the local TEA Party group – the Patriot Freedom Alliance – from flying in a speaker from the Koch-funded Heartland Institute to provide misinformation about how Common Core is akin to Soviet-style communism.
Such groups might do the country’s future a favor by working to find solutions to the country’s education issues rather than drumming up an apocalyptic warning that serves no purpose beyond creating fear and distrust.
The country’s education system is in dire straits – of that there is no doubt. American students are falling behind students from other modernized countries, and there’s little evidence that trend will soon change. Some argue that it’s a lack of funding, while others argue that public, taxpayer-funded education has outlived its effectiveness.
Yet the underlying problem is that teachers – who simply want to help students learn and prepare for the future – often find themselves caught in a whirlpool of competing ideologies and the accompanying measurements, matrices and quality control tests that develop around the latest in teaching standards.
Under NCLB, teachers spent far too much time and effort proving to state officials – and eventually federal education officials – that they were teaching and their students were learning. Common Core likely will come with its own load of unnecessary paperwork – but it is no more a federal takeover of education than Bush’s less vilified attempts at education reform.
As long as groups like the Heartland Institute, Kansans Against Common Core and the local Patriot Freedom Alliance waste time on mythical problems, they fail to contribute anything meaningful to the real discussion that needs to happen about how to improve public education.