by Diane Rufino
At the “core” of Common Core is government control, both of students and States.
Please join the state-wide effort to resist the implementation of Common Core in North Carolina. Of course, I hope this article will encourage those in other states to do the same.
How many North Carolinians know that public school education in the state is centered around the government’s Common Core initiative? As of February of this year, only about 20 percent had even heard of the term Common Core. Far fewer were aware of the implications of Common Core on education.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative (Common Core) is a US Department of Education initiative that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based education reform. Although the Common Core establishment promoted the standards as a “state-based initiative,” the truth is that it is anything but that. It is a government-based, centralized, top-down, one-size-fits-all national education initiative disguised as a state initiative.
In 2010, North Carolina adopted Common Core standards in mathematics and English language arts. The standards were released in June of that year. Like almost every other state, North Carolina quickly adopted the standards without looking into its merits. Almost three years later, the state Board of Education and state legislators still have not looked into its merits. Instead, they continue to be blinded by the funding element and sold on the lies that the government and its associates have promoted.
The time is NOW to start digging into the merits of Common Core, as well as its criticisms. The hope is that as people begin to learn the truth about this initiative, they will join the effort to resist its implementation in North Carolina. A campaign has been organized for this effort, a resolution has been drafted, many groups are adopting it, and soon our state legislators will be introduced to this resistance. The resolution is attached below and if you think it would be wise to halt implementation of Common Core in North Carolina while parents, citizens, legislators, educators, and state officials have an opportunity to address the many valid and serious concerns (outlined in the resolution), we ask that you attach your name to it.
The History of Standards-Based Education: The Federal Role in Education Before No Child Left Behind
On July 24, 2009, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced there would be federal “Race to the Top” competitive grants available to states for education reform. To be eligible, states had to adopt “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the work place.” Once the Common Core standards were released, which was on June 2, 2010, the US Department of Education told the states that in order to continue to be eligible for these grants – this federal funding for education – the states had to adopt them. 45 states have adopted Common Core at this point and the government is planning to fully implement this initiative by 2015 by requiring that each state base at least 85% of its education curricula on the Standards.
How did Common Core come about?
As most people are aware, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the initiative put forth by President George Bush, marked the most dramatic expansion of the federal government’s role in public education in nearly 40 years. Breaking from the government’s traditionally limited role in the daily lives of American school children, NCLB placed specific demands on states and school districts – forcing them to hold schools accountable for failing students, requiring them to monitor student progress annually or face consequences, mandating tougher hiring practices for teachers, and instituting penalties for schools that failed to improve. The penalty provision of the NCLB was the real meat of the initiative. A school that failed to meet the NCLB standards for 3 consecutive years would not be entitled to federal funding.
Up until Common Core, No Child Left Behind was the latest revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was the very first federal education law. It was developed and enacted as part of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” in order to provide significant levels of funding to schools.
In the beginning, ESEA allocated $1 billion a year to help subsidize schools with high numbers of low-income students. It funded Head Start, a preschool program that helped poor children prepare for first grade. It later budgeted an estimated $11 billion to $13 billion a year to help kindergarten through 12th grade schools in poor communities. The provisions of the law also included funds for professional development for teachers and programs designed to increase parent involvement. As President Johnson said the day the bill was passed: “It will offer new hope to tens of thousands of youngsters who need attention before they ever enroll in the first grade.” He continued, “It will help 5 million children of poor families overcome their greatest barrier to progress: poverty.” Indeed, ESEA’s most far reaching program, Title I: Aid to Disadvantaged Children, earmarked $8 billion a year to special education and impoverished and homeless children.
ESEA served as the foundation for federal funding of public schools for almost 30 years. Despite funneling federal money to schools, ESEA adhered to the historic paradigm of a limited government involvement in local schools and left the responsibility of managing public education to the individual states. Under the 1965 law, states created academic standards and assessed student progress but were not held accountable by the federal government for the results. Darla Marburger, the deputy assistant secretary for policy at the US Dept. of Education explained: “Prior to No Child Left Behind, states were required to report student performance but they were not being required to hold their schools accountable based on subgroup performance. States had accountability plans but those accountability plans did not necessarily have a focus on having all students proficient.”
In the classroom, ESEA required the Department of Education to administer the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, an assessment of fourth, eighth and 12th graders from randomly chosen schools, both public and private, across the country. The test, commonly referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card,” sought to give lawmakers a measure of national achievement by subgroups, such as female and Hispanic students, but did not assess all the nation’s schools. Major disparities between the reading and math scores of students in economically disadvantaged school districts and the scores of students in more affluent communities raised concerns, and this led to a revision of the law in 1994 by the Clinton administration. The revised law was called The Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA).
IASA increased school funding to cover additional programs for disadvantaged students and required states to increase the number of student assessment tests to once in grades 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12. Under the law, states were asked to impose their own standardized test requirements for disadvantaged students, who, under the previous law, did not have to be tested. Despite what lawmakers hoped would be a turnaround in academic proficiency under IASA, NAEP scores continued to show a wide achievement gap by race and socio-economic status. While some schools and districts took pains to ensure their students passed progress tests, others did not.
A report of the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2003 summarized: “In attempting to account for the differences of 15,000 local districts and 40 million public students, state and local districts created a diverse array of policies and programs. It became apparent that some states, districts and schools were moving faster and further in implementing standards-based reforms than were others.”
In 1998, only 60 percent of fourth graders performed at or above the “basic” level of NAEP and only 30 percent of eighth graders and 40 percent of the nation’s 12th graders scored at or above the “proficient” or average level, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The same year, the test still showed major performance gaps between white students (who scored higher on the tests) and black, Hispanic, and American Indian students.
As part of his bid for the presidency in 1999, Texas Governor George W. Bush, promised Americans an overhaul of the nation’s schools. At that time, studies showed that both working class and suburban voters considered education a top priority. Bush proposed college savings accounts and deductions, pouring more funds into early childhood education and supported standardized tests to measure school performance and accountability. “I believe that measurement is the cornerstone to reform and measurement is the cornerstone to making sure children learn. And I am going to ask the Congress to pass a bill that says in return for receipt of federal money and in return for flexibility, for the federal dollars you receive, you must show us … you must show the nation, you must show the people in your area whether or not children can read, write, and add and subtract,” he promised in 2000. “If they can, there will be rewards. If they can’t, there must be a final moment of consequence in order for the accountability systems to mean anything. Instead of continuing to subsidize mediocrity after a reasonable period of time, then parents will have a different choice with the federal money.”
The No Child Left Behind Act, signed by President Bush on January 8, 2002, initially received praise from Republicans and Democrats alike. Both sides saw the new law as providing basic tools to give the country’s most disadvantaged children (who go to school in some of the poorest districts) a very real opportunity at a quality public school education. As mentioned earlier, the act initiated a coordination of state and federal policy with the goal of improving teachers and students by penalizing schools whose standardized test scores did not improve rapidly enough.
Since its passage, however, many Republicans and Democrats who initially supported the bill have joined critics who condemn the law for imposing unrealistic expectations on schools and failing to provide sufficient funds to make the required improvements. By 2005, least 10 state legislatures tried to roll back parts of the law and at least three states took steps to exempt themselves from some of the act’s provisions.
It was No Child Left Behind which fundamentally changed classroom education from the traditional approach to “teaching to the test.”
Even before George Bush proposed No Child Left Behind, the “Education Accountability Movement” was gaining momentum. The movement advocated for a common core of knowledge that all citizens should have in order to be successful in the nation’s workforce and they wanted mandatory testing of student achievement in order to achieve that goal. As part of this bold education reform movement, the nation’s governors and corporate leaders founded Achieve, Inc, a bi-partisan organization to raise academic standards, graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability in all 50 states. The year was 1996. Then in 2004, a report was published, titled “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts,” which found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past. According to Achieve, Inc., “current high-school exit expectations fall well short of what employers and colleges demand.” The report concluded that the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed. As the introduction to the report announced: “While students and their parents may still believe that the diploma reflects adequate preparation for the intellectual demands of adult life, in reality it falls far short of this common-sense goal.” It alleged that a high school diploma no longer holds the value it used to because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school.
The report went on the conclude that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards. The stage was set for Common Core.
The development and promotion of the Common Core standards was a joint effort spearheaded by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The NGA and CCSSO coordinated the development process in partnership with Achieve, Inc. In 2009, the NGA hired David Coleman, a businessman (not an educator) and a progressive, and Student Achievement to write curriculum standards in the areas of literacy and mathematics instruction. David Coleman, who despises classic literature and its teaching, is the chief architect of the Common Core standards. He is also listed as one of the top 10 scariest people involved with education reform.
As it was announced on June 1, 2009, the initiative’s stated purpose would be to “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.” With respect to the standards that were created, it was explained that: “The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers, which will place American students in a position in which they can compete in a global economy.” A year later, on June 2, the standards were released.
With David Coleman as the architect of Common Core, it is no wonder that the teaching of classic literature has been sacrificed under the English Language Arts standards in order to teach from “informational texts.” hat is, students will have to know only the precise information presented in the document without room for analysis or interpretation Informational texts range from everything from historical documents to insulation installation manuals, presidential executive orders, environmental programming, and federal reserve documents. (These are all actually on the recommended reading list). Of course one has to ask: “Why can’t students read some of these “informational texts” in history class, for example, where they can be accompanied by proper analysis and discussion?”
While both the NGA and CCSSO appear to be state-based organizations, the reality is that both are DC-based trade associations (organizations founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry). And Achieve, Inc, the group tasked with “raising academic standards and graduation requirements, improving assessments, and strengthening accountability” is actually a progressive non-profit group based out of DC which receives much of its funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Bill and Melinda Gates are super liberals). The truth is that the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation planned and funded all the development, did all the reviewing, and is now involved in the promotion of the Common Core, including selecting most of the figures on the various development committees. It is also worth noting that since creating the Common Core standards, David Coleman has recently been promoted to president of the College Board. As president, he has promised to align the SAT with the Common Core standards he created. First, he used his progressive education philosophy to hijack education for K-12 students and now he’s plotting it for post-secondary students as well.
As mentioned earlier, the Common Core State standards are scheduled to go into effect in 2014 and to be fully implemented (with testing) by 2015. The 45 states that have adopted the program are currently phasing in the programs reforms. The standards released so far are in math and English language arts, but they will soon extend to science and then history (social studies).
Four states so far have either not adopted Common Core or have dropped out – Nebraska, Alaska, Texas, and Virginia. Alabama has introduced repeal legislation and now Kansas and Oklahoma are doing the same. Oklahoma took the first step in passing a bill (House Bill 1989) which will prohibit the sharing of its students’ personal information. Minnesota has only adopted the English language arts standards. And Indiana has recently passed legislation – a Common Core “Pause” Bill – that puts a pause on the implementation of Common Core in the state so that legislators, parents, teachers and school boards can have the time they were denied previously, to actually vet and analyze the Common Core agenda. The bill, in part, reads: “After May 15, 2013, the state board may take no further actions to implement as standards for the state or direct the department to implement any common core standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative until the state board conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the common core standards.” Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence, skeptical of Common Core, says the standards are less rigorous than Indiana’s prior standards and adopting them would mean giving up too much power over the setting of standards.
North Carolina and Common Core
North Carolina adopted Common Core on June 4, 2010. That was only two days after the standards were released by the NGA and the CCSSO. The NC Board of Education adopted it unanimously because it didn’t want to lose the federal “Race to the Top” funding. The state legislature didn’t vote on it, nor have they taken any serious steps to put the brakes on its implementation. In fact, that’s been the case in 45 states. Common Core was presented to the states at a time when the government knew the state legislatures would be out of session or beyond the point when they would entertain new legislation (the summer). The NGA and CCSSO knew they would have a better chance with the state boards of education, which are typically more liberal and progressive and like standards-based curriculum. And that’s what happened here in NC. States didn’t want to lose the federal funding and therefore didn’t do the due diligence in researching the Common Core standards. If they had done so, they would have learned that almost everything the CC establishment has saying about it is a lie.
North Carolina schools began implementing the math and English language arts standards in the fall of 2012, although Common Core will fully go into effect in 2014-2015 when the tests (funded by the federal government) are provided. At this time, most NC legislators think we are already too far down the road with Common Core and too dependent on federal education funding to break free and opt out. Opting out would require one of two actions: (i) a decision by the state Board of Education (which would actually be feasible since many of the members who supported Common Core have been removed from the Board by newly-elected Republican Governor Pat McCrory and replaced with those who are skeptical of it); or (ii) action by the NC General Assembly to opt out (and refuse funding) or halt implementation. In April 2013, NC house members passéd House Bill 733 (H.B. 733) which creates a 20-member committee to study the Common Core standards and to make a report to the legislature in 2014 and 2015 and to make a final report in 2016, at which time the committee will be dismantled. If the bill called for a 1-year study, critics might be able to conclude that NC legislators are serious about figuring out if Common Core is good for its students and stopping a potentially bad program, but since the study is much longer and since Common Core will continue to be implemented and more firmly entrenched during that entire time, the bill is simply a diversionary tactic and only gives the illusion that our state legislature has good intentions. By the time the study is complete, Common Core will have established national standards and testing in all subjects.
The Initiative and Resolution to Oppose the Implementation of Common Core
An initiative has been organized to oppose the implementation of Common Core in North Carolina and ultimately to seek that it be rejected for our public schools. It is the belief of those who have spent time researching the standards that Common Core is a one-size-fits-all education agenda to nationalize education standards and then, by extension (and through the testing scheme), to control public school curriculum. The intention is to collect resolutions from as many groups around the state who want the brakes put on implementation of Common Core in North Carolina and then use them to put the pressure on our state legislature and state Board of Education.
I hope this information will encourage those in other states to organize opposition as well.
For those who live in North Carolina, please read the Resolution below and if you agree or simply want to err on the side of caution and provide more time for due diligence, please agree to add your name to it. Also, please share with as many people as you can. Once all signatures are collected, we will organize a day when groups can meet at the state legislature and together present the resolutions to all of our legislators.
To add your name, please contact Diane Rufino – firstname.lastname@example.org (and put “COMMON CORE RESOLUTION” in the subject line). Please include which town or county you live in and if you belong to any special organizations.
RESOLUTION OPPOSING COMMON CORE EDUCATION STANDARDS
WHEREAS, Common Core (CC) is a set of (math and English language arts) academic standards, created by two private membership organizations, the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and promoted as a “State Standards initiative” and as a method for conforming American students to uniform “internationally-benchmarked” achievement goals to make them more competitive in a global marketplace (1), and
WHEREAS, Common Core is being promoted as a “state initiative,” that description is merely offered to give the public the illusion that the agenda is “state-led.” Common Core standards were actually initiated by private interests in Washington DC and not by state lawmakers. Both the NGA and the CCSSO are both DC-based trade associations (organizations founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry) which used ACHIEVE, Inc. to do the creative work. ACHIEVE, Inc. is a progressive non-profit group based out of DC which has received much of its funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
WHEREAS, Common Core is a top down, one-size-fits-all government takeover of our education system. It uses a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and assumes the same in learning. The CC standards were founded on a severely flawed idea – that every child can learn the same way and at the same pace. It assumes that every child across America will “be on the same page at the same time”; and
WHEREAS, the federal government is bribing the states with federal funds in order to get them to assent blindly to the government’s education agenda. Even though Federal Law prohibits the federalizing of curriculum (2), the Obama Administration accepted the CC plan and used 2009 Stimulus Bill money to reward the states that were most committed to the President’s CC agenda; but, they failed to give states, their legislatures and their citizens time to evaluate the CC before having to commit to them (the old “bait and switch”), and
WHEREAS, the NGA and CCSSO in concert with the same corporations developing the CC ‘assessments’ have created new textbooks, digital media and other teaching materials aligned to the standards which must be purchased and adopted by local school districts in order that students may effectively compete on CC ‘assessments,’ and
WHEREAS, under the “one-size-fits-all” CC standards provided by the NGA and CCSSO and with the testing that the government will provide, teachers will rely less on creativity in order to teach, will be forced to stress rote memorization, and will end up “teaching to the test” (which means the government not only sets the standards but will also direct the curriculum); and
WHEREAS, up until forty years ago, this nation had the best system of education – both K-12 and colleges and universities – in the world. One of the traits that made American education great was its diversity. Elementary and secondary school students can choose among private, parochial, public, technical charter, virtual and home schools for their particular ‘flavor’ in curriculum. Yet uniformity (and NOT diversity) is what CC is all about; and
WHEREAS, in many cases, the CC standards are lower than already existing state standards; and
WHEREAS, instead of teaching critical thinking and problem solving, CC stresses the lowest common denominator, punishes achievement, and forces all students to conform to government standard; and
WHEREAS, the curriculum will replace the study of classic literature in favor of reading so-called ‘informational texts,’ such as government documents, court opinions, and technical manuals; and
WHEREAS, Common Core will require “Data Mining,” which is a huge invasion of an individual’s right to privacy. States who have adopted CC to continue being eligible for Obama’s “Race to the Top” federal funding will be obliged to implement a State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) used to track students. They will track students by obtaining personally identifiable information, including such intimate details as the SS# of parents, mother’s maiden name, political affiliation or beliefs of the student and parents, mental and psychological problems of the child and family, sex behavior or attitudes, a history of personal behavior (including illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior), special relationships (with lawyers, physicians, ministers, etc), religious beliefs and affiliations, and income; and
WHEREAS, Common Core changes the fundamental role of education – from teaching HOW to think and process information to WHAT to think. Common Core teaches for job placement. The emphasis that Common Core puts on “job placement” puts the focus of our education system primarily on the economy and not on the well-being of our children; and
WHEREAS, Common Core will not only apply to all public schools, but it will affect charter schools, private schools, Christian schools and homeschooling as well. Recent statements from the College Board make clear that they are making the move to changing the SAT to reflect the CC as well (encouraged to accept only students who have an education based on CC). If the SAT is based on one curriculum, private school and home school curriculum may be forced to conform; and
WHEREAS, the Common Core standards are copyrighted by the NGA and CCSSO and therefore protected by intellectual property. Hence states are issued licenses to use them and forbidden, for the most part, from making any changes to them. In other words, Common Core, if fully enacted, will end the historical and legal rights of our communities to determine what our children are taught and how the material will be taught; and
WHEREAS, Common Core is being promoted as being “standards-based,” the truth is that educators have always had standards, guidelines, or benchmarks to guide curriculum? What is different all of sudden is that government is sliding towards a socialist agenda where it seeks a “one-size-fits-all” centralized scheme in regulating the lives of citizens; and
WHEREAS, the promoters of the CC standards claim they are based in research, the truth is that the creators were not researchers or educators or otherwise qualified to write the standards; and
WHEREAS, Common Core is an “untested” curriculum, which has not been field-tested anywhere, and which comes with a potential human price tag (requiring experimenting on our precious children), and which interferes with parental control and parental choice in the upbringing of their children; and
WHEREAS, our future depends on the next generation being able to solve the serious problems we face, and sub-standard government run education will only make things worse;
WHEREAS, Common Core comes with an enormous price tag (independent estimates put the cost at $14-16 billion over 7 years) yet that cost is not built in anywhere; and
WHEREAS, at its “core,” Common Core is essentially a social engineering experiment; and
WHEREAS, Common Core is a nationalized federal government takeover of our Education system which runs afoul of the Tenth Amendment, as education is a right reserved to the States. The government certainly doesn’t have the power to create a one-size-fits-all take-over of education on all levels yet it uses its power of conditional spending to achieve the same purpose (an end-run around the Constitution). If the federal government has enough money to bribe the states to adopt its policies with taxpayer money, then the government is clearly overtaxing the American people. It should tax less and allow the states to tax more so at least the states can use its people’s money to serve their interests; and
WHEREAS, Common Core will force consistency and uniformity across the nation. As long as the States are bribed and coerced into adopting a national one-size-fits-all education scheme, then education in general will suffer severely because the states, as 50 independent laboratories of experimentation, will be precluded from trying to innovate and improve education and find solutions to the problems that plague our current education system (in other words, this imposed uniformity will stifle the innovation that federalism fosters).
Therefore, let it be –
RESOLVED, that the _______________________ (name of group) demands that the state Board of Education and our state legislators acknowledge and address the criticisms of the CC standards; and
RESOLVED, that the _______________________ (name of group) rejects thecollection of personal student data for any non-educational purpose without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent and that it rejects the sharing of such personal data, without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent, with any person or entity other than schools or education agencies within the state, and
RESOLVED, that the _______________________ (name of group) emphatically urges NC state officials to repeal the numerous federal regulations which interfere with State and local control of public schools, and
RESOLVED, that the _______________________ (name of group) urges our Legislators to get further involved in the current debate over Common Core, to halt implementation of the standards while a state initiative is pursued to do due diligence and perhaps take an independent state-based approach to the improvement of our education system, and to eventually introduce legislation to remove this system permanently from our schools in North Carolina.
2. Federal Law 20 USC 1232a-Sec. 1232a. and The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Pub.L. 89-10, 79 Stat. 27, 20 US.C. ch. 70. http://us-code.vlex.com/vid/prohibition-against-federal-control-19195093
3. Diane Rufino, “‘Common Core or ‘Rotten to the Core’ – You Decide,” For Love of God and Country, May 11, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.forloveofgodandcountry.com
Department of Education. “President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan Announce National Competition to Advance School Reform,” Ed.gov, July 24, 2009. Referenced at: http://www2.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/07/07242009.htm
Kristina Nwazota, “The Federal Role in Education Before No Child Left Behind,” PBS: The Online News Hour, August 21, 2005. Referenced at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/education/no_child/before.html
Diane Rufino, “‘Common Core or ‘Rotten to the Core’ – You Decide,” For Love of God and Country, May 11, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.forloveofgodandcountry.com
Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform.” http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/top-ten-scariest-people-in-education-reform-9-david-coleman/
Wikipedia (for a detailed look at the standards and examples) –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Core_State_Standards_Initiative