Common Core is causing quite the buzz lately. There is so much controversy and hype that we felt it was time to give you factual, straightforward information and let you decide. Who else would want to wade through it all? Our research staff has included links and footnotes at the bottom so that you have good solid information to source the statements in this post.
So, what is Common core and what is “behind the curtain”?
Get ready folks, because with Common Core – there truly is NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
What is Common Core?
The full name is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and often referred to as the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). According to their website the CCSSI “is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt.” [i] On the same page of their website, they claim the standards are rigorous and internationally bench marked.
Is CCSSI really a “State-led” Effort?
When people think of state-led efforts, they think of how in the past curriculum was hashed out in the legislatures up until CCSSI was proposed. The truth is, CCSSI was not originated in the state legislatures at all. Yes, several states had been working on their core standards so they could comply with federal Race to the Top requirements and so they could compete for federal grants. However, CCSSI was created and pitched to the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) by a committee set up by the NGA.[ii] Both organizations are private entities[iii], both hold copyright to the CCSSI[iv], and they adopted CCSSI and championed them at the state levels.
We are not surprised at the buzz about CCSSI. There has been a push from the US Department of Education in the form of No Child Left Behind waivers and grants for Race to the Top contingent on participation.[v] So, though voluntary, states strapped for cash in this economy are enticed by federal dollars. Also, it is not surprising that CCSSI is all over the news, because of extra funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.[vi]
Rigorous and Internationally Benchmarked??
Most people are excited to hear the new standards are promoted as “rigorous and internationally benchmarked.” They want all children to be able succeed. These are wonderful goals. However, children do not unfold on the developmental curve by age. So, if you are setting standards that all children will be able to pass, you will need to set the standard a little lower. For instance, courses like algebra will be taught in 9th grade, rather than 8th (actually in the homeschool world, it’s generally taught as soon as the child is ready, often much younger than 8th grade.) Some may feel this is slow, but others will state that more students will be developmentally ready to deal with abstract math. So, while the material may be rigorous in application, benchmarks are lower or later. [vii] Cursive is not part of the standards, but with opportunity to customize, states can still include it. States do have space within the CCSS to customize or add up to 15% to the curriculum.[viii] Many homeschool curriculum publishers have brought their curriculum into alignment with the CCSS, others are not changing because they feel theirs meets or exceeds the standards.[ix]
A National Data Base of Students
A concern is that the CCSSI is facilitating the creation of a national database of all children from the time they enter the system until they leave to college.[x] Some educational companies are already figuring out how to use this data to create resources to market to teachers, parents, and students.[xi] Do you want you or your children’s and family’s private information “mined?” Are you prepared to have private information about your child and family shared with private companies? This database includes a lot of extensive information about your child and your family. Are you prepared to have this all conveniently in a federally assessable database?
Will this Impact Homeschoolers?
Only time will tell how the CCSS impacts home education. Many of these standards have been standards in the past. Homeschoolers usually perform significantly better on standardized tests than their public school counterparts. If you are using curriculum aligned with the CCSS, testing should not be an issue. If you are using materials that meet or exceed standards, they will probably do fine. Even if college tests are brought in line (lowered standards) with the CCSS, home educated children would still be able to do well. Some states may change their testing requirements for homeschoolers. Yet, at this point it is speculation, whether it is the intent of those who promote it or not. These will still have to make it through state legislatures. Where you do need to be concerned is when you purchase curriculum that claims to be CCSS compliant, what have they removed and whose agenda has been inserted?
What else is Behind the Curtain?
Most of this sounds rather benign until you start reading the links in the foot notes and begin to think about what you are reading. There is a concern to see the promoters of CCSSI promote it as “state-led” when it clearly was not; perhaps because it is against federal law to be involved in such decisions?[xii] With non-elected people on a committee and private companies making binding educational decisions for every child, we now have an educational system that is not accountable to the taxpayers that fund it, and the students who must pass through the system. Another thing we take issue with is the claim that the CCSS was rigorous and internationally benchmarked, when it was not. Four states adopted the CCSSI before they were even finalized, thirteen more within the first month of the standards being finalized, 40 states adopted it in the first 5 months.[xiii] Could the states have really vetted and understood the full implications of what they were doing, after so little time to discuss the standards? Another red flag went up when we saw that many of the individuals and companies associated with the creation and the promotion of the standards , seemed to have one common denominator, they all seemed to receive funds by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.[xiv] It is great to be wealthy and philanthropic. However, upon further searching we found that Gates was partnering with the UN on educational goals.[xv] The Common Core Standards are rather vague. The place to watch is the content of the actual curriculum and assessment tests, which are driven by the standards, but can be influenced by the worldviews of those who promote CCSSI. A big concern by many is indoctrination through the curriculum.[xvi]
In the end, having standards is a good idea, but when standards are limiting a class to the lowest common denominator so everyone can pass, those standards become shackles instead of wings. Follow the money going into CCSSI and who is supporting it, to see who is behind the curtain. Keep an eye on the content. Remember, the standards are not hard to match or exceed.
Where Does HECOA Base Course Standards?
All homeschool curriculum companies will generally strive to align with a specific academic requirement. This is because some U.S. states (and provinces outside the U.S.) require homeschoolers to meet specific standards and curriculum companies want to be sure that people who buy their books and materials will not fall short. After reviewing Common Core (CCSS) when it was first introduced in 2010, we knew at HECOA that it was far below the academic goals of most homeschoolers whom we are associated with. Therefore, our curriculum and courses far surpass CCSS. People who use our complete courses say they are more aligned with college preparatory type of academics. We can truly say that all honors courses and AP courses are rigorous! If a parent is satisfied with CCSS minimum requirements, they can opt out of more challenging material by notifying the instructor for that course. But as a rule, all of our course material exceeds CCSS and we strive to exceed even the highest academic curricula.
[iv] The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is copyrighted by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governor’s Association (NGA). It took a while to dig this up but I found it! http://www.corestandards.org/public-license .
[v] The Department of Education offered $4.35 billion to states in Race to the Top grants, conditioned in part on adoption of “standards common to a significant number of states.” The only standards option that qualified at the time (and currently) was the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Moreover, suggestions that $14.5 billion in federal Title I money for low-income school districts could be tied to standards adoption and, more recently, the availability of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers conditioned on common standards adoption have coaxed many state leaders to go along with the overhaul. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/04/states-must-reject-national-education-standards-while-there-is-still-time
[vi] “Grant from Gates Foundation will help create comprehensive instructional system to prepare America’s students to meet Common Core State Standards.” Pearson Foundation Partners with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Create Digital Learning Programs—http://www.pearsoned.com/pearson-foundation-partners-bill-melinda-gates-foundation-create-digital-learning-programs/#.UTZp-lfojiI;
[vii] The purveyors of CCSI claim “rigorous standards’ and internationally benchmarked- but people on the draft committees for English and Math felt otherwise: commentary Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making . . . . . . . . 3 Christopher H. Tienken, EdD; Journal of American Scholarship and Practice Research and Evidence: based Practice That Advance the Profession of Education Administration. http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/docs/0710/item1.html?section=stotsky ; ftp://math.stanford.edu/pub/papers/milgram/final-report-for-validation-committee.pdf To allow for some state-level customization, a provision in the voluntary adoption guidelines allows states to supplement the common core standards with state-specific standards, up to an additional 15 percent.”
[viii] “To allow for some state-level customization, a provision in the voluntary adoption guidelines allows states to supplement the common core standards with state-specific standards, up to an additional 15 percent. http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/policy-priorities/vol16/issue4/full/Coming-to-Terms-with-Common-Core-Standards.aspx
[x] “In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-education-database-idUSBRE92204W20130303
[xi] “CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week's SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products – educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-education-database-idUSBRE92204W20130303
[xii] The Federal General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”
[xiv] “Coleman used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mold the requirements for the Common Core States Standards in English …” David Coleman, Educational Hero by Bernie Reeves. http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/01/david_coleman_education_hero.html#ixzz2MhfSXUo9
Pearson Education- Always Learning—“Grant from Gates Foundation will help create comprehensive instructional system to prepare America’s students to meet Common Core State Standards.” Pearson Foundation Partners with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Create Digital Learning Programs—http://www.pearsoned.com/pearson-foundation-partners-bill-melinda-gates-foundation-create-digital-learning-programs/#.UTZp-lfojiI
Achieve Inc. http://www.achieve.org/contributors