Will Kansas become the 34th state to adopt the national Common Core curriculum?
Probably—it is an action item on the State Board of Education agenda for 1:30pm Tuesday October 12.
While not all Board members have expressed their public position on Common Core, odds are that Kansas will adopt these uniform national standards in language arts and mathematics.
Why would Kansas, where candidates adopt “Local Control” as their middle name, buy into a uniform national curriculum promoted by the National Governors Association and chief school officers?
Convenience...maybe. Kansas standards were already up for renewal. Adopting the Common Core would avoid further Kansas committee work.
Inevitability...probably. “The train is coming and we might as well get on rather than get run over” is sadly what has driven ten years of No Child Left Behind compliance in all 50 states.
Political advantage...definitely. The feds will use Common Core criteria for receiving federal grant money. Adopting the curriculum that was required for Race to the Top keeps a state in play for federal education pork. Extorting full curriculum control for seven cents on the dollar was policy under the prior administration and continues under this one.
But the reasons given for adopting Common Core are lame.
“Teachers should teach to the standards, not the test,” fell flat under state standards. Eighty-two of 293 Kansas USDs just failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress. You can be sure those 82 districts will be intensely drilling their students for the next round of tests, not teaching to broad and general standards. It is the test scores that bite. Many Kansas school administrators have long told their teachers in these disciplines to teach only the assessed standards. At-risk students take extra coursework just to focus on improving those test scores. The curriculum has become the tested items.
“We will make the Common Core our Kansas standards by adding 15 percent to them.” Yes, Kansas gets to “customize” the Common Core by adding a unique 15 percent. But Kansas has to adopt 100 percent of the Common Core. And the U.S.D.E. has allotted over $350 million to testing consortia to develop the Common Core assessments so everyone nationwide will be measured by a “common yardstick.” The national test will address the Common Core, not the unique state standards. From what we know about state assessment, if it is not tested, it is ignored. Any “Kansas 15 percent” is irrelevant.
“School administrators haven’t complained about Common Core.” Nor do they publicly complain about the irrational-to-insane requirement that all students be proficient by 2014 under NCLB. Complaining is not how you gain and keep a public school administrative position. But you can be sure they are unhappy with having to switch to a new set of Common Core standards after having adjusted to current state standards.
Adopting these national standards in language arts and math will only increase pressure to adopt the science and social studies national standards waiting in the wings. Several current Board members have said “never.” But if the remaining one-third of states cave-in on Common Core now, pressure to extend it to the other core courses will become irresistible.
Kansas stands at a moment in history where we can help draw the line and help the remaining states resist. Or we can give legitimacy to the federalization of public education. Whether local and state school boards will have any future business to do may be decided next Tuesday.