Introduction to Common Core

April 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

by Jason Bradley

The Minnesota Dept of Education has started to implement national educational standards called “Common Core”. It has been introduced in English and math (with Science, Social Studies, and other subjects coming later) as a way to make uniform, educational standards across the states from a federal level, allowing our children to be able to compete across the globe in the classroom. Well, what do we know about these standards? Do we understand where they came from or what its ultimate goals are? We should want the best education possible for our children. We should want that they come out of school with a knowledge of the world around them, and are pointed in the general direction to go train for their future career, whether at a university, community college, or through apprenticeship. We also know that our current educational system is less than perfect, and something new is needed. Is Common Core it?

This isn’t something we can completely dissect in one article. It will need to be an ongoing dialogue as more information is released and gathered. We feel, however, that parents should be well informed about something that will be so deeply invested in their children’s education, and world view as they continue through life.

Common Core was developed in Washington D.C. by a group called Achieve Inc. (, with substantial funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (over $100 Million, so far). In fact Microsoft and General Electric have huge influence in Common Core. (We will address this later on.)

Well, how does the Federal government plan to implement Common Core in every state? After all, Education has been traditionally driven from the state level. In the 2009 Stimulus bill, there was a $4.35 Billion allocation to the Dept of Education, which created the Race to the Top Program. Race to the Top offered grants (and waivers from No Child Left Behind) to states that adopted Common Core at a state-level. So far 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to Common Core. There was a small application window for Race to the Top (Nov 2009- Jan 2010). The standards had not even been released yet, and would not be, until June 2010. Could you imagine buying something ahead of time with absolutely no idea what you’re getting? Yet, the states were hurting for money, so the majority signed on. Not only public schools are jumping in, but private schools are signing on, as well.

Adherence to the program is going to require a couple of national, computerized tests.  The Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave $350 million in Federal funds to develop these tests. One is called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and the other one is called the Smarter Balanced. PARKK was designed by the same group that developed the common core standards. The Smarter Balanced test was designed by Linda Darling-Hammond (who worked with, terrorist, Bill Ayers on some of his educational work). She has publicly opposed standardized testing. I’m not sure how you can properly assess learning without driving to standards, but okay… At any rate, the teachers will have to teach to these tests, for their students to be successful (thereby driving the curriculum). SATs and PSATs will also be altered to align with these standards.

States receive standards from Common Core, and have no ability to alter them. Control over curriculum is supposedly given to the states, but when you realize that all curriculum must teach to the standards and the tests, there’s not a lot of wiggle room left. You only get to decide how you will teach that material, not what material you will teach. Where do we direct our feedback? Who do we go to if we don’t like a part of Common Core? Not our local School Board or State Dept of Education. Remember, these standards were written in D.C. You need to bring it up with the Federal Department of Education. Good luck getting any resolution. This is a serious issue, if you believe in local control of our schools. If you look at Federal Law (The General Education Provisions Act, Department of Education Organization Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Educational Act of 1965), the Department of Education is prohibited from developing or controlling curriculum, not to mention that the Constitution says that the states will have control over any power not explicitly given to the Federal Government. Guess what? Education is not one of those powers. The Federal Government has been increasingly operating outside of the law, and it should scare all of us.

Like I previously stated, we cannot discuss everything here. There’s just too much to discover. There are standards questions that we will discuss in later articles. There are data collection requirements on your children that seem to cross the line on what is legal and acceptable.  It’s going to seem unreal to some of you, but it’s all true. We’ll work at unraveling this in the coming weeks, and hopefully learn to what it means for Minnesota children… for your children. Both Republicans and Democrats are backing this. Citizens that align with both parties are resisting it. Make sure that everyone you know reads this series. It will be that important.


Entry filed under: Education, School Board. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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