Posted 6 years ago on May 29, 2014, 7 p.m. EST by LeoYoh
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One Size Does Not Fit All: Fighting the Common Core Curriculum
Thursday, 29 May 2014 09:32
By Eleanor J Bader, Truthout | News Analysis
Nearly 60 years ago, long before Common Core State Standards (CCSS) became part of the political lexicon, conservative economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006) wowed right-wing libertarians with his notion of social transformation. The key, he explained, involved privatizing public education. "Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured," he wrote." Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system - i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools."
It took decades, but the seeds sown by Friedman in 1955 have slowly taken root. The result is common core state standards, a system that imposes a rigid curriculum on school districts throughout the country and ties teachers' job security and pay raises to student achievement. The question is whether these roots will take, or will ultimately be upended by CCSS opponents.
Unlike most initiatives, people on both the progressive and Tea Party ends of the political spectrum hate Common Core. So do countless people whose politics fall somewhere in the middle. What virtually everyone concedes, however, is that education is a high-stakes enterprise. Indeed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 50 million children were enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 2013. The budget? A whopping $591 billion.
But where did the idea for Common Core come from, and what exactly does it mean for students and educators?
The genesis of Common Core - earlier attempts at educational standardization like George W. Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind effort were abandoned by the Obama administration - harkens back to a 2009 meeting between the National Governor's Association, The Council of State School Officers and an 18-year-old group called ACHIEVE Inc. Although ostensibly a nonprofit, ACHIEVE is supported by some of the world's largest corporations: Chevron, Cisco Systems, ExxonMobil, IBM, Intel, General Electric, JP Morgan Chase and Travelers' Insurance, among them. Its board is made up of both Democratic and Republican governors and business bigwigs from the aforementioned companies.
Their argument in support of Common Core - and the federal Race to the Top money that requires states to impose Common Core's rigid English and math tests at designated intervals throughout the academic year - is that periodic assessments will guarantee that students are intellectually competent by the time they finish high school and are ready to enter the workforce, a university or the military.
Although this sounds good, Common Core rests on the assumption that today's students lack intellectual rigor because of shoddy, dumbed-down instruction. This argument is predicated on an international test that evaluated students from 34 countries. Indeed, US results were startlingly low: American students placed 26th in math, 21st in science and 17th in reading. This, coupled with the studies showing that nearly one-third of entering college students need remedial instruction, has pushed school administrators, the media and the business world into panic mode. The focus of blame, not surprisingly, is teachers, men and women who allegedly refuse to impose measurable outcomes on the children and teens in their charge. For their part, teachers have offered a consistent rebuttal: Class size is too large; instructional materials are in short supply, and students often enter classrooms with limited English proficiency and a host of social problems ranging from living on the streets, to hunger, to parental joblessness - but their lament - and teacher strikes in Chicago and elsewhere - have gone unheeded. Instead, mainstream media have consistently projected teachers as a unified cadre, unconcerned that their students are graduating without being able to read or do basic calculations. This smear campaign has been effective: By painting teachers as overpaid and lazy, critics of public education have made it seem reasonable to demand a workforce that is harder-working and more goal-oriented.