The Common Core Initiative Sacrifices States’ Rights to Get Substandard Education (Again)

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Meet the No Child Left Behind Act’s evil younger sibling, the Common Core State Standard Initiative.

Supporters of Common Core promise it to be the education reform this country has been waiting for; the proverbial Moses coming to deliver us from educational Egypt. It is not suprising that the initiative’s website has esteemed itself to be “the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education,” but as far as inflated and ambiguous descriptions go, this is not the worst given on behalf of the Common Core. An editorial posted on NYTimes.com claims:

“The rigorous Common Core learning standards that have been adopted by 45 states represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the United States to improve public schools nationally, bringing math, science and literacy education up to levels achieved by high-performing nations abroad.”

While Common Core enthusiasts paint optimistic pictures, very few are talking about what the initiative really is: a push toward nationalized education that will only hurt learning. Or, in other words, a continuation of the disappointment that is the No Child Left Behind Act.

No Child Left Behind was a bipartisan effort on the federal level to reform education. States were to bring every student to proficient levels in reading and math by 2014. Under the supervision of the Department of Education, each state set their own curriculum and formatted their own standardized tests to achieve the national mandates. As could have been easily anticipated, the dissociation between the differing curricula made regulation difficult and success nearly impossible.

To remedy this, the Common Core initiative seeks to streamline the public school curricula into one, unified plan with clear but ambitious expectations, regulated at the federal level. However. bringing everything together under one banner is hardly likely to fix things. In the words of Ron Paul:

 “Sadly, but not surprisingly, instead of improving education by repealing No Child Left Behind’s testing and other mandates, the Obama administration is increasing national control over schools via the “Common Core” initiative…The administration is trying to turn Common Core into a national curriculum by offering states increased federal education funding if they impose Common Core’s curriculum on their public schools.”

The key problem with nationalized education? No one curriculum can effectively cater to all students equally—or even to a majority. The Constitution leaves responsibility over education with the states because the local levels are better equipped to know and serve the educational needs of their communities than is the federal government. This is Federalism 101, and we see the cost of ignoring this lesson in the wake of No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind was ineffective partially because the system views students as a part of a standardized package, like widgets that can be put into a machine and transformed. It teaches them they should all learn the same material in the same manner which common sense can tell you will be a disaster.

No Child Left Behind failed in its objective to enhance our education system, and I prognosticate Common Core will fare no better, so long as our fearless leaders continue to implement a federally regulated one-size-fits-all system that doesn’t recognize each student as unique in aptitude and method of learning.

And so begins (er, continues) the move by the federal government to usurp power over education from the states. With any likelihood, Common Core will be no more successful than its predecessor, No Child Left Behind; and the Obama Administration will chalk up their failure to one inherited from Bush.

  • Nancy P

    I was a high school teacher a few years ago, and the impact of NCLB was painfully obvious. It heightened district anxieties over special education and Honors student passing rates, while simultaneously (and oh so ironically) leaving the average students behind to sink or swim. In one memorable week right before our gauntlet of state tests, I saw each of my 8 classes for about 2 hrs. The rest of that time my classroom was deserted as my kids (most designated ‘bubble’ students, meaning they were projected to be at least 50% in danger of failing the min requirement) were divided up and forced through at least 2 or 3 full-length, released versions of the state test. Not *learning*–just learning what the exam wanted them to say. I knew then that I wouldn’t last long in the profession. This was before the End of Course exams went into effect, and I laughed my way out of that faculty meeting once they were explained. The States are screwing up education enough without the government interfering.

  • John Chapman

    Excellent article Crissy! Good job at cutting through the crap and getting to the core of the issue. Nancy P below says all I wanted to add and more. Teaching to a Federalized set of standards is a very bad idea.