Common Core criticisms distort genesis of the education plan

03/15/2014 12:00 PM

03/14/2014 10:47 PM

There is hysteria among some conservatives over the implementation in our schools of a program known as “Common Core.”

Common Core details what K-12 students in the United States should know about English and math at the end of each grade.

It has been dubbed — unfairly — “Obamacore.”

That’s a pithy name, but it is so far off the mark, that whoever spouts it should be ashamed for perpetuating a wild distortion, if not an outright lie.

Neither President Barack Obama nor the federal government were involved in any way with the creation of this program. In fact, it was started before Obama was even president.

There are 45 states that have adopted Common Core, including Missouri and Kansas. But there is a movement afoot in both the Missouri and Kansas legislatures to repeal it.

What a travesty that would be.

American students have been performing poorly when measured globally. That’s why the National Governors Association and an educators’ association decided to come up with consistent education standards to ensure students graduating from high school are prepared to enter college or the workforce. Educators from each state were involved in developing the standards.

Opponents claim this is top-down federal interference in local school decisions, a cookie-cutter approach to education.

It is easy to see why they would come up with such notions. So many programs that rightfully belong to local and state governments have been taken over by Washington that it would seem only natural to assume that this, too, was hatched by liberal bureaucrats, wanting to stick their nose where it does not belong.

But opponents need to know the facts before jumping to conclusions.

The states came up with this. There are absolutely no federal mandates.

And the curriculum still remains with the local school district on how to reach the rigorous standards.

Statewide annual testing can come either through the Common Core test or more localized options. In Kansas, it was decided that testing will be overseen by the University of Kansas, saving an estimated million dollars a year.

Some states and districts are already implementing Common Core.

Consider the school district that has the highest ACT scores in the metropolitan area — Blue Valley School District, in southern Johnson County. It would not be achieving what it has achieved if its curriculum were not already rigorous.

Yet Superintendent Tom Trigg is a big supporter of Common Core, which his teachers have recently begun implementing.

Trigg does not believe Common Core teaches rote learning at the expensive of creativity, which is a charge opponents make. In fact, Trigg says Common Core teaches critical thinking and problem solving.

“Blue Valley always needs to be improving,” Trigg said. “We want to raise expectations and set higher standards.”

The key, Trigg said, is that the district maintains total control over the curriculum. They choose their own textbooks and they determine how the subjects will be taught.

The issue of whether schools are losing local control is bogus. That claim is the rallying cry of those who either do not understand how Common Core came to be or how it is to be implemented.

The standards belong to the states that voluntarily joined with Common Core, and the ways it is implemented belong to the school boards and superintendents, where those decisions belong.

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