November 18 2013
Common Core: More—or Less—than We Bargained For?
Vicki E. Alger
Common Core was publicized as a state-led, voluntary initiative, but in reality it was an offer states couldn’t refuse if they wanted their share of billions of federal dollars for education programs.
Now that most states have signed on, they’re getting more—and less—than they bargained for.
Common Core is supposed to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students should know to be prepared for college and their future careers.
Rather than raising standards, experts note that Common Core’s standards are no more rigorous than the average existing state standards, but the new tests cost state taxpayers twice as much.
Many experts serving on Common Core review committees also warn that academic rigor was compromised for the sake of political buy-in from the various political interest groups involved—including teachers unions.
Unsurprisingly, the curriculum is being used to advance a partisan political agenda, showcasing pro-labor union and pro-universal health care materials, along with more graphic, adult-themed books under the auspices of promoting diversity and toleration. But the politicization doesn’t stop there.
Non-academic, personal information is being collected through federally funded Common Core testing consortia about students and their parents, including family income, parents’ political affiliations, their religion, and students’ disciplinary records—all without parental consent. That information, including Social Security numbers of students in at least one state, is being shared with third-party data collection firms, prompting a growing number of parents to opt their children out of Common Core testing.
Ultimately, Common Core rests on the faulty premise that a single, centralized entity knows what education is best for all 55 million students nationwide.
Children need to learn the basics, but there are better to accomplish that goal than embracing a national curriculum developed by Washington.
Parental choice programs educate students to high standards, without limiting the diverse schooling options needed to meet their unique, individual needs. Importantly, unlike accountability initiatives involving rigid federal mandates, all parental choice schools face immediate rewards for success or consequences for failure, since parents are empowered to enroll or transfer their children in schools as they see fit.
This year, nearly 245,000 students are attending schools of their parents’ choice through 32 voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs operating in 16 states and D.C., as well as one educational savings account (ESA) program in Arizona.
Scientific research consistently shows that participating students have higher graduation and college attendance rates, as well as higher reading and math scores than their peers.
These are compelling findings, especially since students participating in parental choice programs are overwhelmingly from low-income families and had previously attended underperforming or failing public schools.
Importantly, private schools get results without the inflexibility of a cookie-cutter system.