Common Core Standards and the Education of Children

Hebron resident and attorney Steven Reick wrote this on Common Core, a topic which McHenry County Blog has not dipped into previously.  Read what he has to say:

General Assembly Lets State Board of Education-Imposed Common Core Standards Stand

The end of the current legislative session gives us a chance to score the success or failure of our legislators in addressing the issues that confront the citizens of our state.

While the focus has been on public pension “reform”, concealed carry and gay marriage, one issue that’s notable for its total lack of discussion is the continued implementation of “Common Core Standards” in our schools.

That’s no surprise, since Common Core was imposed upon our schools, not by legislative action or the vote of local school systems, or after soliciting parental input, but by the unilateral action of the Illinois State Board of Education.

Common Core is a set of math and English standards developed largely with Gates Foundation money and pushed by the Obama administration.

The standards define what every schoolchild should learn each year, from first grade through twelfth, and the package includes teacher evaluations tied to federally funded tests designed to ensure that schools teach to Common Core.

While it may seem that this represents progress in education, a few things need to be pointed out:

  1. Common Core proponents would have you believe that this is a state-led initiative. However, the implementation of Common Core was led by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), both of which are private, DC-based lobbying groups, which accepted grants from the Gates Foundation and other private organizations for purposes of developing the program.
  2. Common Core was pitched to the states by the Obama administration by conditioning eligibility for Race to the Top funding and waivers from No Child Left Behind on adoption of the initiative.
  3. The final Common Core standards were adopted on June 2, 2010. Illinois adopted the standards on June 24, 2010 for implementation in the 2013-2014 school year, without public hearings or legislative oversight. In all, 45 states adopted Common Core.

In May, 2012, the Pioneer Institute and The American Principles Project issued a white paper which examines the finer points of Common Core. The major findings are:

  1. The Standards are intended to prepare students for nonselective community colleges rather than four-year universities, and are inferior to those of some states and no better than those of many others. Common Core’s English language arts standards consist of empty skill sets that, once implemented, might not require reading skills any higher than middle-school level.
  2. By imposing the Standards on the states, and by funding their aligned assessments and imposing those on the states as well, the U.S. Department of Education is violating three federal statutes prohibiting its direction, supervision, or control of curriculum.
  3. The standards are owned and copyrighted by non-governmental entities and are not accountable to schools, parents or students.
  4. Perhaps most troubling, the U.S. Department of Education is using Common Core Standards and the assessments as vehicles to mandate the construction of massive state student databases. The Department has also gutted federal student-privacy law to allow greater sharing of student data with other government agencies and private entities.  Partnering with the Department of Labor, the Department seeks to build a data system that allows tracking of individual students from preschool through the workforce.

This last point should be of particular concern to parents.

The data mining of your child has already begun.

A pilot project, run by a Gates Foundation-backed nonprofit called inBloom is collecting data from selected school districts (including several in Illinois), with the expectation of rolling it out nationwide.

Reuters reported in March that “the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number.

“Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.”

How long will it be before that data becomes part of a child’s permanent record?

What safeguards protect the child from having private information given to marketers?

When the child applies for college or his first job, what’s going to show up when the college or potential employer does a background check?

The rationale is that such information will result in greater opportunities for personalized learning.

When asked, Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education said, “We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education.”

Personalized learning such as is happening in, say, Alabama, which is considering new, Common Core-aligned tests for grades 3-12 which examine academic behaviors.

These ask students to report whether they can manage their feelings, work well with others, and finish what they have started.

Teachers also rate students on these same qualities, such as “being willing to experience new things” and “listen to others’ points of view.”

Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information.

But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software.

Nothing in the Constitution gives the Federal government any authority over education, and that was done for a reason.

It was understood that parents and local schools were best suited to determine the educational needs of their own children.

Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol

By tying Federal grant money to the adoption of national standards, the Federal government, with the active participation of a state which will grab cash wherever it may be found, is undermining the authority of parents in this most fundamental of functions.

The people of the State of Illinois deserve better from their representatives.

While other states, including Indiana, have begun to put the brakes on the implementation of Common Core, it’s full speed ahead in Illinois.

This is an issue that affects us all, and deserves the full attention of our state legislature.

The General Assembly should pass legislation stopping the implementation of Common Core until there’s been a full hearing to determine if this is the right thing for Illinois.


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