Many Tennesseans are unaware of Common Core, a troubling new set of federal education standards, because it was agreed upon without the consent, knowledge or involvement of parents and taxpayers.
It might surprise you to know that on recent visits to state legislators in Nashville, they did not know much about Common Core either.
Our Race to the Top application was submitted in January 2010 and then-Governor Phil Bredesen agreed to a set of new standards, sight unseen. The first draft of the standards was not released until March 2010. Several of the experts on the Common Core validation committee refused to sign the final standard documents due to their inferior content.
Dr. R. James Milgram of Stanford University, for example, stated the Common Core's math standards would have American children performing 1-2 years behind other countries by the 8th grade. Noted education reform leader Dr. Sandra Stotsky stated Common Core's English Language Arts standards were just "empty skill sets" leaving our children at a 7th grade reading level upon graduation and replacing 50-70 percent of literature with technical reading materials.
The National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers own the copyright on Common Core standards. As a result, no one using Common Core can change anything about the standards. If parents don't like what is being taught, they might as well not waste their time complaining to teachers, the principal or the school board.
The cost of Common Core is another concern. Estimates are frighteningly high. The fact that the federal government is coercing Tennessee with money, No Child Left Behind waivers and the possible threat of losing Title 1 funding should make Tennesseans wary about the real reason the Volunteer State signed on to Common Core. It doesn't sound very voluntary to me.
Further, everyone should be outraged about the data collection that will be kept on every child, their family members and their teachers from preschool to after graduation (over 400 data points).
"Not to worry" we are told ... we have the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to protect our children's privacy. Well the Obama administration took care of that little wrinkle too. In 2011 they changed the FERPA regulations (without a vote from Congress) to allow the state to share any and all data collected about your child, your family and your child's teachers without any consent from parents. And they can share this information with just about anyone who feels they have a legitimate reason to have the information (federal government, future employers, other agencies and businesses). Why do they need this data?
The standards that were forced on our states were never piloted. So how do we know if they will even work? We may be trading bad standards for even worse ones. Common Core is nothing more than dusting off the outcome-based education that was stopped many years ago. This time, though, they did it by leaving Congress out of the equation by taking money from stimulus funds. Add in the fact that the federal government has also created a technical review committee for the assessments that will drive the curriculum and it seems that this supposedly "state led" movement is nothing more than a federal takeover.
Most of the proponents of Common Core simply regurgitate the same talking points based in few facts. Opponents of Common Core, however, are armed with the truth. Hopefully, the people realize the Common Core's flaws before it's too late.
Karen Bracken is a Polk County resident.
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