Common Core – The Big Picture

June 6, 2013 0 Comments

The following article was written by Ann Marie Banfield, an education activist in New Hampshire, and first appeared in the BedfordPatch.  It provides a much needed overview of the big picture surrounding Common Core and the RADICAL restructuring of America’s  schools:

We keep hearing that  the “Common Core Standards Initiative” is FAR more than JUST a set of standards.  This is true.  New Hampshire instituted reform efforts like: Competency Based Ed, Changes to the report cards, data collection, data mining, Workforce Development, School to Work, etc. ALL of this is the BIG AGENDA to “redesign” public education.

The Common Core Standards are just a PART of the big picture.  But what is this Common Core Initiative?  What does this mean to students in public schools?  What will schools look like?  Is this good for children? These are all good questions and they need to be answered.

They need to be answered because these reforms are already in the NH public schools.   Parents have no idea that this has all been handed down by a small group of individuals who’ve been trying to sell this to the Federal Govt. for years.

We’ve heard about the poor quality of the Common Core math and English Standards.   There is plenty of information out there on the poor quality of the Common Core math and English Standards. What many are missing is the “WHY”?   Why are our public schools being reformed in this way?   And of course, what does this all mean to public education?

It’s difficult to find information that ties all of these other reforms together with Common Core and explains why public education is being redesigned. Redesigning education to one that used to educate the child for the good of the student,  to a system that seeks to instill workforce skills for the benefit of the “State” or the corporate elites.

Recently there have been a few articles and videos that have touched upon this redesign effort.  In fact, we can go directly to Pres. Obama’s own words from his State of the Union Speech:

“Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so those German kids, they’re ready for a job when they graduate high school………..Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge, to redesignAmerica’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”

Read more:

Reading this, one may actually think this sounds like a great idea.  After all, we need graduates who can find a job. So what is wrong with the German model?  That’s a good question.

Have you even been asked what you think about redesigning American education into one similar to the German education system?  Did you know that is what is being done through the Common Core Agenda? Remember Common Core is MUCH MORE than just a set of academic standards.  It’s a complete redesign in public education.

In a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal by Jamie Gass and Charles Chieppo, they identify problems with Common Core but more importantly they highlight the problems with this kind of redesign in public education.
“Common Core recycles a decades-old, top-down approach to education. Its roots are in a letter sent to Hillary Clinton by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, after Bill Clinton’s presidential victory in 1992. The letter laid out a plan “to remold the entire American system” into a centralized one run by “a system of labor-market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by government functionaries.

Today, many advocates of national education standards embrace these same anti-academic impulses. In a 2011 speech before the National Governors Association, Bill Gates, whose foundation has been Common Core’s major funder, called on states to essentially brush aside liberal arts departments and fund public college and university disciplines based on their job-creation potential.

As you can see, the focus is not on the improvement of academic excellence in public education, it is a transformation that shifts the focus from academic excellence to workforce skills development.   Central planning for a planned economy? They go on to mention that this approach to public education has already been tried and tested.  But how did that work out?

“This academic-lite approach has been tried before–and it failed.  In 1998, Connecticut had higher reading scores than Massachusetts.  but just as the Bay State was pursing clearly articulated academic goals, Connecticut chose a curriculum that put soft skills (such as cultural competence and global awareness) on par with academic content.  By 2005, Connecticut was one of seven states that had outsized drops in reading scores, falling by nearly 10 points in seven years.”

Education researchers know that “fads” in education recycle every few years.  They also know that when they are recycled, they often times get renamed.  I suppose they rename these fads because of the past failures.  Who wants to have parents looking at Competency Based Ed on the Internet and realizing it’s rehashed failed Outcome Based Ed?  Maybe the reformers actually hope that the next time they will see real success even though they follow the same failed recipe?

Competency Based Ed is another component in the reform effort called Common Core.  It comes from the same salesman of Common Core known as Marc Tucker.  (Remember he’s the one who called for the elimination of local control and local school boards)

Marc Tucker came to the New Hampshire Dept. of Ed several years ago to suck the NH DOE into this rehashed “redesign” reform.  If they can sell it to NH, they can also try to sell it to the other states willing to cough up tax dollars to give it another try.

It’s interesting that states like Virginia opted out of Common Core.  If you look deeper, you will also notice that the Governor in VA rid their state of Outcome Based Ed after his election years ago.  I guess years of, “no real progress” in the academic quality of education was enough for them.

There are students who do want to opt for a Vo-tech education.  I say good for them.  It’s a good alternative as long as the academic content is not watered down and the important classes like Civics and U.S. History are also required.

This Common Core agenda is very different.  Competencies seek to instill “workforce” skills in a child’s k-12 education.  As you can see from the examples above, this waters down a quality academic education in favor of “Soft Skills” : aka…Competencies…aka…21st Century Skills…aka…SCANS…aka…workforce skills. (Note: notice the numerous name changes)

The tracking begins at an early age with the Tucker agenda.  (Pre-k)  This means your children will be “human capital” that the “State” can track for the benefit of the workforce.  Will your child be tracked to college?  Remember Common Core standards prepare students for a Community College.  Will your child be tracked to the workforce?

Recently I heard about a parent in Nashua whose son took a “survey” that determined he would be a great RAPPER.  The parent was angry about the outcome from that school administered survey.

In this video, Gretchen explains all about the tracking of students under the Common Core agenda.  In the last MINUTE of this video when she quotes Secretary Arne Duncan and the REAL reason for a data-driven education.  I would suggest watching the ENTIRE video, but take note of the video around 13:00.  This is where Sec. Duncan talks about the children who are on a track to college.  However Gretchen asks the more important question, “what happens to the 8, 9 or 10 year old that is a late bloomer?  If he or she doesn’t have a great data-set, by age 10, what expectations would Secretary Duncan have for that child?   Based on his or her data?”

You see, this isn’t about a child opting for a vo-tech school, it’s not even about improving the quality of education via the Common Core academic standards.  This is an entire REDESIGN of public education into a workforce development system.

This redesign ignores the reasons for a quality “liberal arts” education that seeks to educate and teach about history so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.  Liberal comes from the Latin, liber, and means free.  Liberal Arts allows the child the freedom to choose what direction he or she wants to go in life and helps a student not only become a good person but a good citizen too.  A quality “liberal arts education” supports the Republic, preserves civilization and the liberty we so often take for granted.

C. S. Lewis, a strong supporter of a quality Liberal Arts education saw the error in what he called “vocational training.”  An education focused on simply preparing the children for the workforce.  He rightly stated, ” If education is beaten by training, civilization dies.”  He goes on to say, ” …civilization is a rarity, attained with difficulty and easily lost.”

What preserves civilization?  Not an education system that seeks to turn your children into worker bees for the workforce but by educating thoughtful men and women who then become responsible, productive and good citizens.

The Tucker agenda demeans the human being by looking at your children as human capital.  There is no dignity in bureaucratic elites who ignore the dignity of the human being by redesigning education into a workforce development system.

Tucker, his funding partner Bill Gates and Secretary Duncan should have looked for more meaningful ways to improve the academic excellence in public education.

You do this by going directly to the parents.  The people who’ve been left out of this entire reform movement.

You go to the parents of the children who are desperate to have their children educated in a public school.  The parents who see that their children can no longer recall basic math facts because schools no longer see the need to teach this important academic skill to children.  You go to parents who know that a child with good grammar and speaking skills have a far better chance in life than ones who do not.  You go to the parents whose children are being force fed lessons on how to become political activists that focuses on funding an education system that continues to fail them.

If children were truly educated in this country, they’d be fully prepared for college and/or a career.  Employers are crying out for well educated graduates who know how to add/subtract/multiply and divide.  Students who are well educated CAN think.   They can think because they are now equipped to think.

Students who graduate illiterate but with “workforce” skills are still illiterate.  Students who graduate ready for a Community Colleges that offer high school equivalent courses are not well served in this system.

Will Common Core and the agenda that goes along with it cure the problems of illiteracy?  Of course not.  Why?  Because we’ve been trying these reforms for a couple of decades now and the reformers have yet to show that any of this has worked.

Have they told you any of this in their quest to redesign public education?  Of course not, you are simply the “parents”.

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