Common Core – Oh The Tangled Webs We Weave …

In 2011, the PA State Board of Education published an Annual Report titled “Forward Together,”  in which it states:

“In 2009, the State Board was in the process of revising Pennsylvania’s academic content standards when the Common Core emerged as a policy priority of the nation’s governors and chief state schools officers, and, ultimately, the White House.”

Well, that would explain Arne Duncan’s comments in his 2010 “Vision of Education Reform” speech: [emphasis mine]

“… the administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much morethe Recovery Act created additional competitive funding like the high-visibility $4.35 billion Race to the Top program and the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund… America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform… In March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments Virtually everyone thought the president was dreaming. But today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it.”

We’re told over and over again the federal government is prohibited by law from creating national standards or curriculum. So, how did the role of the federal government “fundamentally shift,” without legislative action or Constitutional amendment, to gain authority it does not  possess within the Constitutional framework of the federal government? The combination of “non-profit” and “non-government” organizations working in cahoots with the federal grant aid process is how the US Department of Education is able to “do much more.”  And nearly all of the “non-government” agencies involved in Common Core were in some way, shape, or form funded with money from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Gates foundation even gave money to the national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to promote Common Core.  Then, the U.S. Department of Education dangled stimulus money and ‘No Child Left Behind’ waivers in front of the states to seal the deal. Not to mention national organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Students First running TV commercials and lining the campaign coffers of politicians who are “on board” with the agenda, irregardless of party affiliation.

But, we are told the Common Core train has left the station. We’ve already taken the money and  invested precious time and resources in putting it all together, so we can’t turn back now.  Sandra Stotsky, who was actually a member of the Common Core advisory panel,  recently wrote an analysis for in which she argues that the unconstitutional nature of the Common Core initiative provides state with an opportunity to take the money and run from Common Core.

“… there seem to be no likely penalties if a state accepted a USED award of RttT funds and now chooses to withdraw from the agreement. States can justify their withdrawal on the grounds that the Common Core standards do not meet the original requirements of “common standards” outlined in the RttT application. These standards were supposed to be “supported by evidence that they are internationally benchmarked.” But they are not. The Common Core Validation Committee never received any evidence.”

Common Core has made strange political bedfellows.  It pleases both sides of the Big Government equation. On one side we have the big government Republicans and their cohorts in big business who promote the misuse and overuse of standardized tests to evaluate both teacher job performance and student achievement as well as the “privatization” alternatives of charter/cyber schools. And on the other side we have the big government Democrats who believe they can create an education utopia using intrusive data collection and analysis as well as education techniques rooted in behavioral psychology and social experimentation to achieve equal outcomes for all. The political ruling class chooses to believe “consultants” and “advisors” over concerned parents, teachers, and others who work most closely with the children and are directly involved in the classrooms.

Our local schools are “quietly” being lured into the same “common” web as the state department of education is producing and promoting “voluntarily” curriculum roadmaps to guide school districts into the Common Core super web, until they are all inextricably trapped. And the new Keystone Exams, created by DRC, Inc.,  are aligned to the PA Core Standards, which are based on and nearly identical to Common Core State Standards.

An article ‘When Will We Ever Learn‘ that appeared in Psychology Today (January 21, 2014)  includes an interview with Dr. Louisa Moats, who was also one of the contributing writers of the Common Core State Standards. In this interview she admits:  “I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests.”  She argues the money should have gone towards preparing teachers, not tests. Furthermore, she says, “It doesn’t make sense to ask kids to achieve standards that their teachers have not achieved!” Sadly, not much about Common Core involves common sense. And please note, she says they were “drafting the standards in 2010.” Our state department of education agreed to “change course” when Common Core emerged in 2009.

Whether you think Common Core is a good idea or not, what none of us should like is the way it violates not only States’ rights via the Tenth Amendment, but also the principle of subsidiarity. Our schools are best managed closest to the community they serve. And when we tolerate abuses of our rule of law and Constitution for things we like, we must realize it will also be violated for things we don’t like. We can’t have it both ways.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the crocodile may eat you last, but eat you he will. Most of the folks concerned about federal intrusions into local matters, such as Common Core, are trying to keep the crocodile (the federal government) within the confines of the swamp, where it belongs and where it functions best.

See Also: Common Core – Voluntarily Mandatory Curriculum



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