LA Times belated entry into Common Core battle

Jun 18, 2013 by

Doug Lasken – For those who have been trying to get mainstream attention focused on the vast pork (and resulting harm to CA schools) inherent in President Obama’s Common Core Standards (CCS), today’s L.A. Times editorial (“Was adopting Common Core a mistake?”, http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-race-to-the-top-common-core-curriculum-20130617,0,7818933.story) is a bittersweet victory.

It’s sweet because it has been rare for a major CA newspaper to point out anything wrong with CCS. To its credit, the Times piece deals at length with the chaos which CA’s public schools are about to experience, caused by a hasty CCS implementation with an almost total lack of planning. To summarize the problem: Next school year there will be no set curriculum, no approved textbooks, no approved testing procedures or indeed tests for fall standardized testing- an unprecedented situation and highly disruptive of the educational process. Parents, teachers, administrators and students will not be happy.

But the Times piece is bitter because it makes no mention of CA’s current standards, considered world-class by professionals not in the pay of textbook companies, or the cost of CCS to the state ($1.6 billion with zero co-pay from the feds), the lion’s share of which will go to publishers and testing companies. Nor does the Times editorial follow this money trail to the obvious conclusion that the haste in implementation is reflective of a haste in getting the checks secured for special interests. The Times editorial is too late to stop that process.

Nevertheless there is a silver lining to the editorial. As far as it goes, it is correct: public school districts in CA will be dysfunctional regarding curriculum and testing for up to two years, which means that CCS will be a viable campaign issue for the mid-term elections. This will be an important change from the last several years, during which time Gov. Schwarzenegger embraced CCS, followed by the State Board of Education’s embrace, and most recently Gov. Brown’s pledge to use Prop. 30 to pay for CCS (so that we have taxed ourselves to cover a windfall profit for special interests). None of this aroused the public or the party (or the media) but that will change when the damage to our schools becomes clear, and noisy, in the fall.

There is an interesting line towards the end of the LAT piece:

“Resistance among conservatives seems to be more about picking a winnable battle against President Obama than providing the best possible education for students.”

This, or course, has been the problem with many GOP positions, both state and national: People think the GOP will just attack anything from the Dems, for no other reason than that it’s from the Dems. The GOP is suffering from such perception now as it criticizes Obama’s seeming acceptance of a surveillance state. Voters are able to perceive that if the Snowden documents were leaked under Bush, he would have downplayed them, and the criticism would be coming from Dems- most vehemently from Obama himself.

But by focusing on the greed on display with CCS adoption, and the fallout affecting our children, the state GOP should be able to enhance its image as a party that knows what’s going on and moves against bad policy when it sees it. We’ll know more if anything like this can happen at the state GOP convention in Oct., which I plan to attend and write about.

Doug Lasken is a retired 25 year teacher for LA Unified, debate coach and educational consultant. Reach him at doug.lasken@gmail.com

Lasken’s Log.

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