Part 1 described the philosophy and strategy used in the formation of the Common Core objectives (Common Core State Standards, or CCSS). On the surface, they were a logical way to improve U.S. schools which have lost ground against the rest of the “developed” world.
[Link to Part 1: “Philosophies and Strategies Behind the Standards”]
Part 2 reviews how the Standards came into existence and their claimed advantages over existing state standards.
How CCSS Was Created
According to the Common Core site:
“The standards are informed by:
- The best state standards already in existence
- The experience of teachers, content experts, states, and leading thinkers
- Feedback from the public”1
Common Core claims that “The federal government was NOT involved in the development of the standards.” Technically, yes, but that’s a half-truth to be discussed later in this section. Nevertheless, the CCSS also did not come from the states as implied.
According to Diane Ravitch, former assistant U.S. secretary of education under presidents George H. W. Bush and Clinton:
“They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.”2
Adding to cynicism about the standards is the involvement of Achieve Inc. It was formed in 1996 and five years later had a board comprised of six governors and six CEO’s of corporations. The presence of six governors apparently allowed them to consider themselves as “state-led.”3
[RELATED on OCR: “Confrontational Politics and the Common Core”]
Additionally, Achieve “already had a set of ‘common expected outcomes for high school graduates” in 2004 which were based on a report by the American Diploma Project (a joint effort between the Education Trust, the Fordham Institute and the National Alliance of Business). This was five years before the standards were published after reported collaboration with “teachers, other experts and thinkers.”3
So, how was its connection to Common Core a half-truth?
Answer: “In March 2009, the Department of Education revealed its backdoor method of gaining federal control of state educational policy when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Race to the Top (RTTT) program—an opportunity for states to compete for a share of $4.35 billion reserved for state education incentives by the American Recovery and Restoration Act. To even be eligible for funding, states had to promise that they would fully adopt a set of common college- and career-ready standards supplemented with only 15% of their own standards.”4,5
The supporters of the Common Core have repeatedly stressed that the Department of Education never specified that the Common Core was “the college- and career-ready standards that states needed to adopt… But the connection with RTTT and the NCLB [No Child Left Behind] waivers is evident. Every state that has received an RTTT grant or NCLB waiver has adopted the Common Core and is a member of one of the two state consortia writing standardized assessments.” The first exception was Virginia only after proving that its revised educational standard was aligned with Common Core!4
What about the “Best State Standards in Existence”?
The initial difficulty in determining whether the Common Core standards are beneficial is exemplified in the area of English Language Arts (ELA). The Fordham Institute reported that the CCSS standards for ELA are superior to 37 of the states’ standards.6 That sounds like Common Core in English meets the criterion of “best state standards.”
However, Prof. Sandra Stotsky, who developed the much-respected Massachusetts’ K-12 standard, refused to approve the CCSS standard. Regarding its English section, she said they “weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.”7 Also, the new ELA standards are so vague as to “delimit the literaryhistorical standards.” In effect, teachers uninterested in a traditional syllabus of English literature “may satisfy Common Core standards with one Shakespeare play, The Declaration of Independence, some poems by Walt Whitman, and the rest contemporary literature.”8
Realistically, how ridiculous could “contemporary literature” become? For example, “At a National Teachers of English conference, the teachers of a senior Advanced Placement honors course presented an argument against having students read ‘Beowulf’ and for substituting a comic book based on ‘Beowulf.’”4
The New York City Department of Education’s web page for principals has thirteen recommended units of ELA study for high school. Only three literary works appear in these: “Romeo and Juliet,” T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” and a short poem about Gandhi by Langston Hughes. Replacing traditional works. In addition, “The site offers units on DNA and crime detection, ‘vertical farming,’ digital media, European imperialism, great speeches and two on the civil rights movement…Even when a topic is disposed to abundant and superb literary works, the Education Department has failed to include them. The unit on ‘Rites of Passage’ — supposedly to be used in English classes — doesn’t opt for great tales of youth and adulthood such as ‘Jane Eyre,’ ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ or Richard Wright’s ‘Almos’ a Man.’ Instead, it chooses 10 pieces on teen rituals from The New York Times, USA Today, Fox Business, NPR and other news outlets.”9
Terrence Moore, who has a doctorate in history and was founding principal of a classical school in Colorado, objects to the diluted requirements currently in the standard. He wrote in his book “The Story-Killers”:
“The Common Core and the textbook editors are replacing the classic stories with postmodern tales of cynicism and ennui. Both the human mind and the soul long for greatness, for stories that are good and beautiful and true.”10
(In all fairness, a separate criticism of the ELA standards is a product of some not paying attention to what it actually says. Common Core states that non-fiction reading [which it calls “informational”] should increase so that it represents 70% of all reading in school. The 70% is not a requirement of work solely in the English classroom as some opponents claim.)11
Additional critical point to counter some opponents of the standard: the CCSS itself offers “suggestions” instead of required curricula. However, this is misleading in the long run. Be sure to read the section on standardized testing in Part 4 to see how that will necessarily change.
The net result is that claiming superiority to state standards is not what it seems.
“The Fordham Institute studied the science standards and concluded that they are inferior to existing standards in 12 states, superior to only 16 states, and the standards of 22 states are too close to call. It would have been better if more states simply adopted the better standards already successfully piloted in 12 states (emphasis added).”4 This assessment has little room for debate.
Here is a repeat of the same problem as when evaluating the English section. Fordham Institute says “The Common Core standards are superior to standards currently in use in 39 states in math.”7
The Common Core site defends part of its math standard with the following fact debunking a common myth: “The standards do accommodate and prepare students for Algebra 1 in 8th grade by including the prerequisites for this course in grades K‐7.
However, the CCSS for math does not eliminate the concerns of Stanford professor James Milgram, the only mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee. He found the standard wanting in solid geometry and Algebra II and did not sign off on the standards.4
Another curious aspect of the standards is this: Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey and Vermont are deemed as “not aligned” with the CCSS although they were high achieving states in the 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) in 8th grade mathematics tests.4
Next: The actual research and review processes which produced in Common Core and the quick “adopt it, then figure out what’s in it” a la Obamacare.
[RELATED on OCR: “Why I Proposed H.B. 237 to Repeal Common Core in Ohio”]
Oscar A. (Tony) Rubio is a writer who merges the lessons of history with current events to suggest a better path. This Cincinnati native resides in Clermont county and believes that our national mood would be improved if we listened to more Big Band and Jazz. He is certain that we must take action on the local and state levels now if we are to realize our hope that the White House will be occupied by the party which respects human life, the Constitution and Natural Law beginning on January 20, 2017. Tony blogs at www.cartaremi.wordpress.com and www.sportuoso.wordpress.com.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
2 – “Common Core Curriculum: A look Behind the Curtain of Hidden Language,” by Rachel Alexander, 3/18/2013, http://www.christianpost.com/news/common-core-cirriculum-a-look-behind-the-curtain-of-hidden-language-92070/
3 – “More on Common Core: Achieve, Inc., and Then Some, 12/2/2013, https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/more-on-the-common-core-achieve-inc-and-then-some/
4 – from “3) How is the federal government involved in the Common Core,” http://www.hslda.org/commoncore/topic3.aspx#_ftn2, quoting from Race to the Top Program Executive Summary (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, November 2009), 4, accessed June 10, 2013, http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf ; Federal Register 74 no. 221(November 18, 2009): 59836, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2009-11-18/pdf/E9-27427.pdf.
5 — Race to the Top Program Executive Summary (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, November 2009), 4, accessed June 10, 2013, http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf ; Federal Register 74 no. 221(November 18, 2009): 59836, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2009-11-18/pdf/E9-27427.pdf, from the same article in footnote #4
6 – “Fordham Institute Rates Common Core Against State Standards, http://blog.careertech.org/?p=2360, 8/24/2010
7 – “Backlash Against Common Core,” The Phyllis Schlafly Report, July 2013
8 – page 15 of “How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk”, by Mark Bauerlein and Sandra Stotsky, http://heartland.org/sites/default/files/commoncoreelastandards.pdf
9 – “Common Core vs. Great Literature,” by Mark Bauerlein, 7/10/2013, http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/common-core-great-literature-article-1.1394249
10 – “Turn to classics instead of Common Core,” by Russ Pulliam, http://indy.st/Lj5typ, 1/31/2014
11 – “The Truth about Common Core,” by Kathleen Porter-Magee and Sol Stern, http://www.nationalfreview.com/articles/344519/truth-about-common-core-kathleen-porter-magee, 4/3/2013