Common Core is spreading like a plague. It’s entering pre-school, college, downloaded lesson plans, and even vacation Bible school. And it’s disguised in the Orwellian Every Child Achieves Act, which is now in committee.
Toddler Common Core
In Connecticut, preschools have adopted Common Core for children ages 3 to 5. According to the Bristol Press, the curriculum used by the Bristol Early Childhood Center has changed to meet the expectations of the new Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards. The new curriculum ostensibly covers pre-academic skills, which according to the course description, will “foster development of social, emotional, physical, language, [and] cognitive areas and integrate key areas of content including literacy, mathematics, science, technology, creative expression and the arts, health and safety, and social studies.” That sounds more “academic” than “pre” to me. (But for our Department of Education no function is beyond its purview, including teaching parents how to “’bridge the word gap’” for newborns. Now 24/7 government boarding schools have been put on the table by Arne Duncan.)
Studying the Bible the Common Core Way
When I heard about vacation Bible schools making their Bible story readings Common Core compliant I thought that maybe some ill-informed and well-intentioned teachers thought they could keep students up on their schoolwork. But the Courier Journal reports that Jefferson County Public Schools have been offering Common Core training to “interested Vacation Bible School providers.” This, however, came after “enlisting the religious groups to help combat the ‘summer slide’” (emphasis added). The teachers have imbibed the public school lessons: Olivia Hanley of Midwest Church of Christ, oddly, approved of the Common Core method of “critical thinking” for Bible study. More than 30 Louisville-area church officials attended training this year, more than had attended last year. No doubt, efforts to expand reach are underway. My question is: how much of the public school funds went into recruiting and training Bible school teachers? And why are public school employees going to churches as part of their official duty? What gives them the authority? Surely, there must be someone out there who otherwise would scream “separation of church and state!” (say, for putting a Christmas tree in a school auditorium) who might be interested in this matter.
Common Core in Downloaded Curriculum Material
Common Core, even without such outreach efforts, is creeping into schools in non-Common Core states, as Education Week reports. They estimate that 1 in 12 of the teachers downloading Common Core-compliant curriculum materials are in states that do not have Common Core in place. That means that at least some Common Core teaching is going on in non-Common Core states. Of course, when most states adopt Common Core it stands to reason that most of the curricula produced (including textbooks) will be Common Core-compliant.
Common Core College
As I wrote last fall, Common Core is in college. According to the 2013 National Center for Postsecondary Research working paper, The Common Core State Standards: Implications for Community Colleges and Student Preparedness for College, over 900 public and private colleges and universities have committed to using Common Core tests for placement. Therefore, they have committed to changing their standards to Common Core. This year, three higher education groups issued a joint statement asserting their “Commitment to College- and Career-Ready Standards and Assessments.” They pledged not only to support Common Core in K-12, but to “change practices in our higher education institutions. . . . includ[ing] adapting our placement policies.” They will also prepare new teachers and assist veteran teachers “in the delivery of high-quality instruction supporting these higher standards.” They pledge, in other words, to allow the U.S. Department of Education to give professors directives on how to teach. Even better, they pledge to train the professors for the Department.
Common Core Hiding in the Every Child Achieves Act
All kinds of creepy Common Core things are embedded in the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), which is really a “rewrite” of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), according to Dr. Karen R. Effrem of Education Liberty Watch. The ESEA is more commonly known as Title I, the program under which low-income school districts receive federal funds. It is loved by state bureaucrats because it means more money for their districts, as one of them revealed at a meeting I went to in 2014.
But while Common Core is popular enough to make its way into vacation Bible schools, politicians know it’s toxic. So they disguise it. American Principles in Action calls the Act “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and offers 21 reasons to oppose the 792-page bill (122 pages longer than the NCLB bill).
Even though new language seems to restrict the Department of Education from “for example, coercing states into adopting the Common Core national standards,” the “protection” is meaningless. The language replicates existing protections, both of which have no enforcement mechanism for the states. And, “ECAA negates the protections anyway” because states must be aligned to the “college-and-career-ready” standards – “code” for Common Core.
Such “college-and-career-ready” standards that override state and college standards for placement in credit-bearing courses also put downward pressure on states to keep Common Core, or similar standards, in place.
ECAA mandates that 95 percent of students take the state assessments and therefore interferes with parental “opt-out” rights for testing. These state assessments, in addition to NCLB’s requirement that states produce “individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports,” require assessments on “behavioral/skills-based standards.” It does not protect against the plans to probe students’ “‘mindsets,’ ‘grit,’ or other psychological traits.” In fact, it offers incentives to states to do that. The I-TECH provision offers “free” money to states that agree to use “personalized learning” — or Brave New World technology that collects personal and psychological data on students as they use it.
Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow at the American Principles Project, says, “The main problem, to me, is that the bill claims to be diminishing federal authority when in fact its structure is highly prescriptive and tells states exactly what they must do in terms of standards, assessments, and accountability systems. So it’s not just bad policy, it’s active deceit.”
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.