Public Education and the Common Core State Standards

There has been a consistent push from Conservatives to reduce our educational standards. Lower academic standards and improper support for public education has been on their platform for years.  Though I doubt that they would admit to this openly.  But their policies around education certainly pushes for more cost effective services through privatization and more individualized learning through parental choice.  Of course, privatization doesn't mean that services are more cost effective.   Likewise parental choice does not mean more individualized learning.  This is the great lie and smoke screen that Conservatives have been pushing at us, hoping that we will drink the "Cool Aide" (pun intended!) and support these practices.  The actual result of lowering standards and privatization would undoubtedly be that those who "have" can continue to control and oppress those who "have not".  It's that simple.

Private companies have one goal: profit.  Regardless of what they do, say, or market, if there are no profits, the company is unsuccessful.  If we privatize education, it can only be profitable in one of two ways:  sell more education or reduce quality.  And once profits slow down in one effort, the other will be deployed to increase them again.  So privatization will ultimately result in lack of quality in our education system.

Parental choice does nothing to to increase individualization.  Most parents are not trained educators, and many are not qualified to make educational choices our public education system.  The old adage holds true:  A man who defends himself in court has a fool for a client.
Most parents would not be successful as their own lawyers.
Most parents would not be successful as their own doctors.
The bottom line is that professional decisions should be left to professionals who are experts in those areas.  So educational decisions about our children should be left to professionals who understand the situation and the various strategies that can be used to achieve success.

New Hampshire adopted the Common Core State Standards to replace the Mathematics and English Language Arts curriculum frameworks that we had previously.  They are better standards that our old ones for two reasons.  First, they are performance standards that are indicators of what students should know and be able to do.  They cover less material but expect more depth of understanding.  Second, the teaching pedagogy that is required by the Common Core are discussion based strategies that focus on evidence and support for arguments and ideas.

It's easy to understand why the Conservatives don't support the Common Core.   Successful implementation would enable voters educated under them to use reason to poke holes in all their ridiculous arguments.  Conservatives argue using fear and ignorance to gather support.  Arguing with evidence would not suit the Conservative agenda at all.

Recently, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, gave a speech that pushed back at these Conservatives who are causing unnecessary concern about the new standards, adopted, by the way, by forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the Common Core State Standards.  When is the last time so many different states and territories agreed on anything?  These must be awesome standards.

Here is what Arne said in his introduction:
Academic standards used to be just a subject for after-school department meetings and late-night state board sessions. But now, they're a topic for dueling newspaper editorials. Why? That's because a new set of standards—rigorous, high-quality learning standards, developed and led by a group of governors and state education chiefs—are under attack as a federal takeover of the schools. And your role in sorting out truth from nonsense is really important.
So I'd like to explain how we arrived at this place. I'll talk about information and misinformation, and ask you to help Americans draw a bright line between the two.
I'd like to make the case that these standards have the capacity to change education in the best of ways—setting loose the creativity and innovation of educators at the local level, raising the bar for students, strengthening our economy and building a clearer path to the middle class. But for these new standards to succeed, Americans will need to be clear on what's true and what's false.
The speech went on to cover these topics:
News Literacy and our Common Worry: Ensuring a Generation Critical ThinkersWhere the Common Core Came From: A Crisis of Low StandardsThe Power of the Common CoreThe Common Core: Not a Federal ProjectWhy Strong Standards Change Everything     Where Standards Used to Be     What These Standards DoThe Controversy over the Core     The Common Core is Under Attack through MisinformationThe Role of Journalists: Telling Truth from FictionResponsible Conservative VoicesWaivers/ESEA
Secretary Duncan's powerful conclusion, truly represents our best hope for the future of our public education system and our children.
That's why I am still hopeful. Because as I travel outside of Washington, I see every day what happens when educators get to do their best work—when they are free to create and innovate.   
There's still so much more work to do. Raising standards is only one part of the job. We need to support great teaching. We need to make college affordable. And we need to make high-quality preschool available to every child.  And as this works moves forward, we need guardians of the truth to separate fact from fiction. 
Whatever your views about public education, it is indefensible to lower learning standards. It hurts everyone, and children from disadvantaged communities most of all. There is simply too much at stake—for the country—for our future—and for your industry. 
If your state lowers standards, you lose a high bar for reading, for critical thinking, for writing, and for taking ideas seriously. You lose one of the cornerstones of democracy. Because the power of democracy depends upon an informed electorate—and a free press. 
America's children will live in a very different world from their parents. Our obligation is to prepare them for it. We all share that responsibility.

Duncan Pushes Back on Attacks on Common Core Standards
http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/duncan-pushes-back-attacks-common-core-standards

Common Core State Standards
http://www.corestandards.org/

*sjf