Three influential education policy experts penned an opinion piece for the New York Daily News in which they effectively explain why the “backlash” against Common Core standards “is now in full swing.” Former U.S. assistant secretary of education and Hoover Institute fellow Williamsom Evers joined CATO Institute scholar Neal McCluskey and one-time Massachusetts associate education commissioner Sandra Stotsky gave five compelling reasons why CCS needs to be set aside:
First, creation and adoption of these standards has violated the traditions of open debate and citizen control that are supposed to undergird public schooling.
Though preliminary drafts of the standards were released to the public, the standards were written behind closed doors by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — private organizations — and copyrighted. There is also no public record of the meetings available.
Adoption was then strong-armed by the Obama administration via Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waivers that the feds granted states.
Second, the Core claims to be “internationally benchmarked,” but supporters can’t name a country to which it is pegged. In addition, according to Stanford mathematician James Milgram, the math standards would put kids two years behind their top-scoring international peers by grade seven.
Third, there is little evidence that setting national standards yields superior outcomes. Supporters argue that most countries that beat us on international exams have national standards. True, but so do most countries that finish below us.
There is little deeper research on this, but what there is suggests that once you control for variables such as income and culture, national standards have no effect.
Fourth, our root problem isn’t poor standards, but bad political incentives. The groups with the most at stake in the education system will be most motivated to be involved in its politics, and those are the professional education associations, education schools, state and federal bureaucrats and other interests whose livelihoods come from it.
They are also more organized than parents, making it easier to exert pressure on school boards and legislatures. Combine these factors with their natural incentives — not to be forced to hit high bars — and too-low standards typically result.
Fifth, making standards uniform across the country reduces the benefits of competition between states and districts, which vie to attract residents and businesses. That stifles laboratories of democracy.
Most troubling of all, the Common Core will cripple individual choice, which is highly concerning because all children are unique and need different things. Supposedly autonomous charter schools, which already must use state standards, will become far more similar to one another.
Three true believers of Common Core sit on the task force convened by the Florida Board of Education to craft changes in the state’s school grade formula. Commissioner Tony Bennett brought two staffers with him from Indiana in Will Krebs and Dale Chu. Will the three form a stonewall against Common Core being part of the conversation?