Assessing Common Core: Con

Oct 31, 2014 by

By Heather Kays –

Common Core is bad for students, and it’s bad for teachers, parents and state and local autonomy. It is a federal intrusion and all-encompassing leviathan that legally should not be allowed to stand, let alone wrap its tentacles around students from kindergarten until they graduate from high school and head to college.

There is no evidence national standards increase student achievement. Even if there were, we should not be using these particular standards. The Common Core State Standards are academically mediocre at best, according to professors, curriculum experts, child psychologists and many teachers. That is especially true for the younger grades — specifically, K-3 — where a mountain of information will be hammered into these young students even though there is evidence such practices do not lead to academic gains that last as students get older.

The implications of such standards are even more devastating for special-needs and English-language learners.

Tiffany Charles, an occupational therapist who works with autistic students for Sawtelle Learning Center as part of an annex program at Franklin Elementary School in Kearny, N.J., said she recently witnessed a teacher in her school struggling to teach an autistic student the moons of a planet. It was based on a lesson designed to help students pass Common Core tests. The student is a fourth-grader who cognitively functions at the level of a three-year-old. That same day, the teacher received a note from the student’s mother asking the teacher to help him learn how to pull up his pants after he uses the bathroom.

Spending enough time and effort to teach that autistic student how to use the bathroom is the difference between him being accepted or not into a day program as an adult, Ms. Charles said.

Common Core, by contrast, is “a cookie-cutter approach to education, and the creators of Common Core look at that as a positive,” said Ms. Charles. “But you’re missing the kids on either end of the bell curve, and, I am sorry, but there are a lot of kids on either end of the bell curve.”

Ms. Charles said the ability of teachers and support staff to individualize lesson plans adequately for students has all but disappeared because of Common Core. For her students, time would be better spent addressing functional skills, such as how to go out into the community and wait in line, how to make change, and how to prepare a simple meal.

“What I really, strongly feel happened is all these officials got together, and they wanted all students to be on the same page, to level the playing field,” said Ms. Charles. “They sat down and came up with this plan, and it looks great on paper, but I think they forgot about students with [individualized education programs]. They forgot about kids who legally have to be in school, but may not be going to college or trade school after they graduate.”

That’s the essence of the Common Core leviathan. As a result, Oklahoma and Indiana have repealed the standards. North Carolina, South Carolina and Missouri have adopted legislation to review the standards. A school district in Lee County, Fla., voted to opt out of Common Core testing. It rescinded the decision after being warned by officials that students would not receive standard diplomas and therefore might not be able to earn college credit.

Common Core proponents swear the standards are voluntary. They make this claim because states signed up for Common Core in hopes of winning Race to the Top federal money. Essentially, states were coerced or bribed to adopt the standards in order to make it more likely they would win money in the federal giveaway, which was essentially a raffle of taxpayers’ money.

Now the ACT and SAT are being redesigned to align with Common Core. This means even parents who put their children into private schools or home schooling will not be able to avoid the standards unless their children do not go to college. Those tests previously functioned as aptitude tests rather than achievement tests. This meant a smart student in a poverty-stricken neighborhood school could stand out and be accepted by a good college. That opportunity disappears when the SAT and ACT start testing what and how you have been taught instead of what you know.

Legally, education and curriculum are supposed to be state issues. According to the State Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, education is to be handled on the state and local level. It is not enumerated as a federal power in the Constitution.

Common Core supporters will argue standards are not a curriculum, but that’s an evasion. Standards very clearly and directly affect curriculum. It is a flimsy argument of semantics on the part of Common Core advocates.

Despite the incredible reach, and indeed stranglehold, of Common Core, there is reason for hope. The numbers of teachers, parents, officials and politicians willing to stand up and fight against Common Core are increasing each day. They are up against the federal government and those who stand to gain financially from Core-aligned testing and textbooks. Every inch of this fight is going to be difficult, but the future of education in this country depends on it, as does the future of every student who sets foot in a classroom.

Heather Kays is a research fellow with the Heartland Institute and is managing editor of School Reform News.

via KAYS: Assessing Common Core: Con – Washington Times.

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