Last week I posted a blog about an email that is making the rounds that was insanely inaccurate in its description of Common Core educational standards. And earlier this week I posted a link and brief quiz from JSOnline that clarified what Common Core is all about.
Well today, the Wisconsin State Senate began hearings on a new education law that will take educational authority out of the hands of the Department of Public Instruction and into the hands of a 15 member appointed panel…and let the legislature have the last and final say in anything education. Like they’d know, but that’s another topic. The whole charade is an attempt to derail Common Core standards by neutralizing its defenders and supporters around the state, who unsurprisingly resemble the superintendents of schools and teachers from around Wisconsin. Go figure.
But I digress!
But why are so many conservatives all het up about Common Core? Well it might be the continued attack that is spreading lies and disinformation about the standards. For a brief second I’ll outline a couple of high level points: Common Core is a set of achievement standards for math and English developed by a consortium of states (not the federal government) and does not mandate any particular curriculum or text books or teaching methods. Go back and read Erin Richards Primer on Common Core to get the better gist of what Common Core is…and then try to get your head around this:
Opponents of the Common Core State Standards are rallying a grass-roots movement in Wisconsin to stop the state from implementing the standards.
They say that the standards let the federal government take control of the curriculum at the expense of local control, and that they promote educational mediocrity and “highly political” content that undermines Judeo-Christian values.
On Saturday, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor Duke Pesta rallied Common Core opponents with that message at an event in Waukesha sponsored by the Republican Women of Waukesha County.
In a nearly two-hour seminar, he outlined what he called the “dangers and threats” that the Common Core standards pose on the educational system, liberties and Christian values. Pesta called the Common Core standards “socialism” funded by leftist lobbyists, including Bill Gates.
Pesta said the federal government effectively bribed states to adopt the standards without seeing them first.
“No state legislators, no governors, no teachers, no moms and dads had a say in this,” he said. “All Common Core is is No Child Left Behind on steroids. It’s one-size-fits-all education. It’s mindless testing. It’s the elimination of excellence.”
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core, but efforts are underway in 22 of those states to fully or partially remove them from the standards, he said. Wisconsin is scheduled to implement Common Core in the 2014-’15 school year. Pesta said that would result in teachers teaching to the Common Core test and forcing students to memorize things instead of learning to think holistically.
He expressed concern that Common Core English standards would drop some classical literature from the curriculum in favor of government pamphlets and “highly political texts” that indoctrinate students to believe in man-made global warming rather than discussing character, morality and ethics.
Takes away local control? Local school boards would still select curriculum, books, etc…
Education mediocrity? Not like we have the toughest standards on the planet now. Common Core is far tougher than what Wisconsin had before its adoption.
One size fits all? Only to the point that all students would be expected to be at the same learning or understanding level at the same grade levels…again local schools get to select their own curriculum. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to grab for excellence, not a deterrent.
Highly political texts? Again there are NO texts mandated by Common Core…what gets used locally is selected locally.
And it seems to me that we have already been teaching to the test ever since President George W Bush foisted No Child Left Behind on an unsuspecting nation…from my point of view it seems far harder to teach to a test that will expect a student to master concepts and thinking over rote memorization…exactly the opposite of the claim above.
Now let’s get to the Judeo-Christian thing…first, public education shouldn’t be touching that with a ten foot pole…if they can even afford one…but just for grins let’s look at Common Core from someone directly involved with Christian education:
When it comes to the Catholic Church’s fundamental mission, Catholic schools are essential, not optional. In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, they are precious jewels that adorn our proud history of catechesis, social outreach and fidelity to the Gospel.
Our school system’s sterling reputation is due, in large part, to the fact that Catholic education always has been an enterprise driven by evangelization rather than separatism. In the public square, Catholic schools present a unique and indispensable contribution: a seamless and systematic blend of both intellectual and spiritual formation
According to the National Catholic Education Association, “The Common Core State Standards in no way compromise the Catholic identity or educational program of a Catholic school.” Roughly 100 Catholic dioceses and 35 states are making use of them in some way. The Iowa Assessments, ACT, SAT and other standardized tests are being realigned to correspond to them. In the private sector, many Catholic and other independent schools across the country are thus utilizing the Common Core Standards both voluntarily and selectively, with no state or federal strings attached.
Curriculum committees comprised of educators from our Catholic elementary and secondary schools, as well as our Catholic colleges and universities, wrote the mathematics and language arts curriculum for the schools in the archdiocese. They compared our exit expectations with the Common Core Standards, making sure that our students will continue to be held to a superior academic standard that incorporates the best of both systems.
In the many areas where we already surpass the standards, we will continue to do so. But in some areas, where the standards actually introduce a higher level of academic expectation, we will rise to the challenge. In other words, we are using the Common Core Standards as a floor rather than a ceiling.
Using these standards in such a selective and limited way means that they will in no way detract from the Catholic identity of our schools. After all, they are not having any impact whatsoever on the substantial majority of the subject matters we teach. And where they are relevant, their integration into our exit expectations is directly managed by the archdiocese, making sure that nothing unacceptable is embedded in them. Moreover, there is a big difference between standards and a curriculum.
At the local level, principals, teachers and families make decisions about how to meet these newly integrated exit expectations. The standards are the destination, so to speak, but there are many good paths open to our educators. In view of their trustworthiness, proximity and hands-on experience, it is only right that they should be the ones to freely teach curricula, decide what books and materials to use, choose instructional methods, plan their lessons, select modes of evaluation and so on.
Now, we live in an increasingly secular society that is indifferent, if not hostile, to the spiritual aspects of reality. Our First Amendment may enshrine the universal human right to religious liberty but, more and more, our government threatens the church’s autonomy, freedom of conscience and any role whatsoever for religion in the public square. Nevertheless, isolationism is never an orthodox option.
Indeed, we must remain both active and vigilant when it comes to public policy, asserting our legitimate independence and defending our Catholic identity. However, we cannot be so proud as to imagine that we have nothing whatsoever to learn from those with whom we may disagree on some matters. Our careful and controlled integration of these standards reflects the fact that, when it comes to the Common Core as a whole, we are picking out whatever is valuable and leaving aside the rest. That is prudence, not compromise.
Radical rejection of the world, simply because it is not yet Christian, is the antithesis to evangelization and to the very missionary nature of the church herself. Good Christians bring the light of Christ to all the pathways of this present life. That is why, down through the ages, the saints have never been extreme separationists; they’ve been good citizens, evangelists and, most important, fine teachers.
Oh, and let’s get back to the local control thing. It’s absolutely awful when you think the federal government is doing it…but when the brain trust in Madison comes up with the same idea…well it’s golden:
A bill that would create a state academic standards board with the power to derail the implementation of nationally aligned reading and math goals in Wisconsin’s public schools will likely see intense debate Thursday in Madison.
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the contentious Senate Bill 619 at 10 a.m.
A companion bill, Assembly Bill 617, was pulled from a vote last month in the Assembly Education Committee.
This week, Wisconsin Legislative Council attorneys confirmed that the lawmakers would indeed have the power to amend state standards under the bill, which concerns many people who believe that education and curriculum experts — not partisan politicians — should have the final authority over what kids should learn in each grade.
Yeah, that’ll work, I can’t conceive of a thing that could go wrong.