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Common Core Is No Path To Prosperity

By: Nancy Jester
Marietta Daily Journal (October 10, 2013)

Depending on who you ask, Common Core is described as something from voluntary national standards to a federal takeover of education. So, what is it and what’s really going on?

Common Core is an initiative of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn … reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”

No one would argue with these groups developing a set of voluntary standards that are rigorous and helpful for students as they prepare for college or the workforce.

The NGA and CCSSO may have had the best intentions, but as the process unfolded, political motivations and agendas took over. A recessionary economy and falling property values created budget crises in school districts across the country.

In the category of “never let a crisis go to waste,” those with agendas saw an opportunity to leverage school districts’ need for money with their vision for education.

Into this situation, President Obama’s Race to the Top grants offered a much needed infusion of federal money conditioned on adopting Common Core. At that point, Common Core ceased being voluntary and was no longer an effort to define rigorous standards with broad acceptance.

Once linked to grant money, the power over education standards shifted from states and districts to the federal level. Even though the NGA and CCSSO were responsible for the initiation of common standards, the use of federal grant money changed the nature of this effort.

Those who favor Common Core in Georgia still see it through the original lens of good intentions and dismiss or ignore the political appropriation of their efforts. Their reticence to acknowledge the usurpation of Common Core by the federal government is understandable given that most of the advocates invested their time and reputation into the initiative.

With states adopting Common Core under the lure of federal money, groups with political agendas regarding K-12 curriculum can target and obtain influence or control over the standards.

For example, Common Core displaces some traditional literature with informational texts to prepare students for workplace and technical writing.

That sounds innocuous enough, but what informational texts will they read? Perhaps they will be given EPA regulations on carbon emissions, DOJ writings on hate crimes or Department of Labor surveys on workplace diversity.

The politicization of learning is embedded in this standard. Centralized control also curtails innovation. It’s like going back to Ma Bell and doing away with the communications revolution brought to us by a competitive marketplace.

With Common Core in Georgia, we’re told that the standards are closely aligned with Georgia’s existing standards, as if that should make us all feel better.

In the early 2000s, the Georgia Department of Education adopted a social studies curriculum that is almost completely devoid of education on The Bill of Rights in elementary school. Yet, in third grade, we teach our children about the nine important people who “expanded rights.” Those nine people are: Paul Revere, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Mary McLeod Bethune, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, Lyndon B. Johnson, and César Chávez.

The same Georgia Department of Education asks us to trust them on adopting Common Core standards. The Georgia DOE that has been at the helm as we performed so poorly as a state on most education metrics. When some of our elected officials say they are being informed about Common Core by the experts from our DOE, I’m concerned about the advice they are receiving.

Our state spends in the top 10 nationally on education, yet, most of our education metrics hover in the bottom five. We have to admit that we need a change in leadership on educational issues in Georgia. Rigorous standards need to be adopted, but they must be part of a process that continues to innovate and is not beholden to a central authority. Georgia has a long road ahead but Common Core is not a path to prosperity.

(13) comments
  1. What classroom experience do you have that lets you know this about Common Core?

  2. @Jeremy
    You said “lets you know this” … what do you mean? Let’s you know what? I don’t see where classroom experience is relevant to any of the points made in this article.

  3. Mr. Spencer,
    Thank you for commenting on my blog. Your question seems to assume that one needs to be a teacher to know about, comment on, or form an opinion regarding Common Core. Indeed, the vast majority of the committees that crafted the Common Core were not teachers. I also believe all moms are teachers. I sit with my children at the kitchen table and help with homework, review their papers, work on projects and enhance their learning everyday. More importantly, I try to instill in them discipline, focus, good habits, curiosity, and manners. These attributes don’t spring forth without parents teaching them to their children.

    No one should want to limit the conversation regarding these issues as we are all invested in the education system. I think all citizens, parents and taxpayers are welcome to review and formulate their own beliefs regarding Common Core. The issues I raise in my blog regard various political, policy, and budget considerations around common core and its future. I invite all Georgians to be informed and share their opinions on Common Core or any other issue of civic importance to them.

    –Nancy

  4. Will you withdraw GA from the Common Core standards?

  5. You make accusations about CC that are totally false. Most teachers and parents are okay with CC and are not moved by the manufactured hysteria of the Federal Gov’t taking over education. Do you not understand that the State Constitution controls education curriculum through the GADOE and the local districts select the textbooks to be used from a variety of options?

    So CC is gone, what is to replace it? Do you really want to go back under AYP? Why support a losing anti-CC cause rather than work to enhance CC and make it better.

    Your lack of understanding education is showing.

  6. I have made no accusations that would say that I do not understand. I have 14 years of classroom experience, so I am very aware of the issues involved. I just want to know if you will use empirical evidence and not assumptions to make important education issues.

    How would you improve the TKES teacher eval system and also the CCPRI evaluation model? If so, how?

    The CC, TKES, and CCRPI are flawed and we do need an accountability system, but this one will not be effective in its current form. With no empirical evidence guiding our leadership, it will be hard to assume this model of evaluating students, teachers, and schools let’s leaders know if this “will work”. The research is pretty clear on VAM models and many teacher prep program with GA professors have actually recommended that GA pull out of Race to the Top and go with a more authentic approach to teacher eval. Of course that would mean to pull out of CC since those are the standards endorsed by the RttT program.

    Since you have suggested that you will not withdraw from CC and to commit to making them better, what would be your plan to make that happen?

  7. @David,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your perspective even when we disagree. I would urge you to reread my post. No where in the text will you find the words “Federal Government takeover” or any speculation regarding what “most teachers and parents” think of common core. I urge you to read George Will’s latest article on Common Core. Mr. Will is known for his intellect and wisdom so perhaps his article will give you a better perspective.

    As I stated in my post, any group that wants to prepare a set of voluntary standards and advocate for their adoption across the nation, can do that. It becomes problematic when the government begins to tie money, grants or otherwise, to the adoption of these standards. Again, George Will’s article has a good discussion about the legal perspective of ESEA, as amended. Future risks are not mitigated if a state is bound to the Common Core in its entirety because of a financial entanglement.

    Additionally, I am not a fan of centralization or forced conformity in general. The great ideas and innovations of our time have come from individuals not government agencies. Here are links to some articles that you might find interesting from that perspective: Friedman Foundation on Common Core and School Choice versus Common Core.

    Thank you again for commenting on my blog. We may agree to disagree on this subject. But, “what is showing” is that my understanding, conservative perspectives and financial analysis are well informed and thorough. It’s ok to disagree but let’s not be disagreeable.

  8. I agree with the premise of conservative ideal of both articles and thank you for posting those, but whomever is the State Superintendent will need to tackle this issue of the teacher eval particularly of the SLO course’s. There is no way to measure SLO and consequently that will reflect on the schools and school districts.

    I do not disagree with the basic ideas behind CC, I disagree with the lack of research behind them and the implementation process/cost factor. Many oppose it for different reasons, but those are the two issues that will slow the progress down. The state of Kentucky is a good example of how this situation is unfolding. There will be mediocre gains but will that satisfy the politicians who support this? How proactive are they going to be monitor this situation? Those are some things that must be addressed if Georgia is to “lead” on this issue.

  9. I am so glad that we let states and private enterprise guide us in the space race. I would have hated to see our efforts guided by those public universities like cal tech who took all that federal money and wasted it. And thank goodness UGA and Georgia tech have given back all that federal money and let our wise legislators do important educational work, like letting college kids carry guns into bars. Nancy, be a leader and stop bashing federal educators who want to compete with china and Scandinavia.

  10. The irony in that comment is that the GA Tech president stated “that a student cannot go to Tech without having had Algebra I in 8th grade and calculus by senior year. In other words, Common Core won’t get kids into Georgia Tech.”

  11. I don’t know about these people claiming to have X years of education experience, I maintained very close relationships with many of my high school teachers and every single one of them loathed Common Core and all the standardized testing, and all for the reason that they felt it hurt their ability to educate their students.

  12. Sounds like internet libertarian hasn’t tried to get into tech ever! Nice of you to ignore the basic irony of my comment you emmet tyrell elitist

  13. I have 3 kids in public school. I have talked with many teachers in and out of our district who are completely against common core. I have been in the classrooms helping the teachers who have to go through their day like clockwork with no room for ANY extra activities or questions that may arise. They get written up based on common core standards if they are not on the “subject’ that they are suppose to be on during the allotted time. I think it is ridiculous. Yes, there needs to be reform, but common core is not it. There are so many kids that do not get help at home and this puts a lot more stress on the teachers to get the kids to perform on level. Have you looked at some of the new math that common core is pushing. It does not make any sense at all. Some kids can’t even read in the 1st grade and common core expects a teacher to teach 20+ kids to read when a lot of the students clearly do not get help at home. Why should this be put off on the teachers? They can’t go home with the kids and do what the parents should be doing on the other end.

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