As schools like Bedford begin the process of aligning curriculum to the new Common Core (National) Standards, parents should take the time to know what this means for their children.
The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) together formed the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) to develop a set of academic standards. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a set of learning standards in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. These standards replaced existing state standards in these subject areas.
To be fair, the old New Hampshire state education standards were some of the poorest academic standards in the country. Unfortunately, under the new CCSS, we will not see much academic improvement, while at the same time we are embracing some truly troubling “reforms.”
Contrary to the claims of the CCSS public relations machine, experts have uncovered the following about Common Core:
- o The Common Core only allows States to make changes to the standards by a factor of up to 15 percent. Therefore, if a parent or state official identifies a problem with the CCS, to whom do they appeal? It is unclear who governs these standards, and it seems as though the people of New Hampshire now have to lobby the NGA and CCSSO in Washington, DC in order to make changes necessary to respond to the needs of New Hampshire children.
- o The cost of implementing CCSS in New Hampshire has never been addressed by the NH Department of Education. While several inquiries have been made, no estimates have ever been made public. One estimate from "Implementation Costs of Common Core in Education Week (8/29/2012) shows the cost to be $289/student nationwide.
- o Schools have already been collecting data on students, but CCSS puts government data collection on steroids. Experts have discovered that more non-educational information will be gathered on each student (1), all student data must be shared with the SBAC testing consortium, SBAC has already committed to share the data with the US Department of Education, and the US Department of Education has already re-interpreted FERPA regulations governing privacy of such data to allow it to share it with any government or commercial entity (2). This all means that individual student data, including family income, religion, student disciplinary data, medical info, and more can be shared nationwide with any entity.
In addition to the disturbing loss of control, this new reform effort has been described as mediocre and experimental.(3) For instance, under the new English standards, Prof. Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas who sat on the “Validation Committee” for the Common Core English standards, refused to sign off on them due to their many flaws. She said of the standards: " Common Core's English language arts standards won’t lead to college readiness and contain many flaws.” She has explained “how college-readiness standards” are chiefly empty skills(4), and others have pointed out that CCSS defines “College Readiness” as preparation for a two-year, non-selective community college- not a four year university. This will increase college remediation levels. (5)
The CCSS has also changed what your children in your school district will be learning and how they learn it. Aligning curriculum to the Common Core Standards is an even more radical “teaching to the test.” Under No Child Left Behind, our local public schools became "test prep centers," but under Common Core this problem will become even more pronounced.
And as if “teaching to the test” weren’t concerning enough, experts are identifying the problems with the tests themselves. W. Stephen Wilson, Professor of Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, says that the new math assessment is "deeply flawed." He goes on to warn that at the expense of math content, CCSS plans to assess communication skills that have nothing to do with mathematical understanding. (6)
Prof. James Milgram from Stanford Univ was the only Mathematician to sit on the Math Validation Committee for Common Core and also refused to sign off on the deeply flawed math standards. He warns, "by the end of fifth grade the material being covered in arithmetic and algebra in Core Standards is more than a year behind the early grade expectations in most high achieving countries. By the end of seventh grade Core Standards are roughly two years behind." In other words, the longer your children remain in a public school, the higher the chances they have of falling behind their international peers.(7)
What can Bedford do to offer the best quality education to students in the district?
Schools are not required to adopt Common Core Standards. Commissioner Barry from the New Hampshire Department of Education confirmed that this is "voluntary."
Instead of following a set of mediocre standards that may not leave your children prepared for college level learning, why not opt out of Common Core and adopt the best academic standards in the country?
As the district moves forward with this newest reform effort, it would be beneficial for the School Board to keep the community informed every step of the way. I hope that as we go forward, the School Board will take the opportunity to communicate with parents either through public meetings or through the district web site.
(5) http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/minutes/?yr=2010 February Meeting, page 6