Common Ground with Common Core?—Not so much….

What made America great in the first place? The very unorganized and rudimentary public education system that was dedicated exclusively to the three R’s helped significantly. However, brilliant scientist and successful businessman, Benjamin Franklin and internationally admired analytical genius, Abraham Lincoln, although not as formally educated as some, go unmatched; especially to the bureaucrats involved with Common Core. Edison, Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford also belong on this list. The aforementioned individuals and their deliberate thinking, creativity, competence, and perseverance brought innovation and ideas to this nation that dramatically affected the quality of human life.

Six years ago, “Common Core Standards” were established to address the historical and tired claim that our nation’s public schools are failures. This proposed solution brought a more bureaucratic approach to schools with prescribed content and measured student acquisition of that content—an approach with a disapproval rating that grows with each passing year among teachers, parents, unions and students alike. So why are these standards thought of by most to be an epic failure? Teachers across the country have reported significantly lower than expected proficiency levels along with growing educational gaps between the students. These tests have also become increasingly centralized to the work of educators and affect their relationships with students and their families. Based on the results of a single exam, a student can be told they are performing “below grade level” while schools and their teachers are often chastised as failures for this. It is the test designers (not the teachers) who determine what portions of students will pass or fail an exam. When states utilize one of the two tests aligned with Common Core, student scores drop dramatically and these tests often have negative implications on the evaluations of their instructors. Students are often asked questions beyond their level of comprehension and are reduced to merely guesswork. Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union stated, “Common Core eliminated creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration.” This causes the imaginative ideas and critical thinking used to inspire students to become null and void.

This problem is two-fold:
1) Why is it that we are not placing responsibility where it belongs when it comes to grades and student success?
2) Why are we continuing to pass students along through the educational system when they are falling through the cracks? The National Assessment of Educational Progress may be reporting that the overall high school graduation rate has never been higher; yet the amount of students graduating high school who are not college/career ready is outrageous.
The more pressing issue is the role that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are playing in the larger dynamics of current school reform and education politics. Now several years later, those changes don’t appear to be worth celebrating. To add insult to injury, multiple rounds of budget cuts and layoffs throughout the country have eliminated more than 300,000 teaching positions, school districts actually possess less funding for educational materials than they did six years ago and the inconsistency of these state standards have left an appalling increase in the poverty and inequality surrounding our schools in general. There is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that as a nation, it has been reported that we spend more money per pupil than any other country, yet we are ranked 28th in education in the world.

Finding common ground with Common Core has proven to become consistently more difficult as time goes on. Once revered as “the be all; end all” of education reform, the Common Core Standards have been rushed into nearly every classroom in every district in the country. The controversy over Common Core in public schools is not simply about education, but rather about the homogenization of education. Many people oppose Common Core principals because they believe them to be counterproductive to the roots of American exceptionalism. Moreover, they believe that common core accepts the all too familiar fallacy of the one size fits all education where everyone learns collectively. CCSS were created to be an instrument of contested policy; a larger political agenda to remake public education that many people believe overshadows and often shatters creativity and innovation in the classroom.

By all accounts, Common Core education standards have proven to be a dismal failure—hated by parents, teachers, and even unions. Governors like Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal went from originally supporting the standards to violently opposing them after observing their affects. Half a dozen states have withdrawn from Common Core, with many others following suit and pursing legislation to do so. It was described by many as the “usual standard of incompetence we’ve come to expect from the Department of Education (DOE). “We must begin to focus on making real improvements in our schools by allowing teachers to use their professional training and knowledge to reach every student, while reducing class sizes and increasing support by adding more social workers, counselors, and/or librarians to help stabilize schools; even in poor communities rather than shut them down. It takes an army to move a mountain, but as a country, this is something that can absolutely be done for the greater good of humanity and for the future leaders of the free world. To quote columnist, Bruce Walker in his article for American Thinker, “America has never needed this. The individual freed and self- directed is our strength and our hope.”

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