In his State of the Union address, President Obama tried to de-fuse the charge that the Common Core curriculum for language arts and mathematics was a National Curriculum. His words: "...these standards were developed, by the way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country."
None of us teaching in the trenches are buying this argument that merely because governors developed them, they are not National Standards. The "bite" comes from all students having to take the National Test that follows. The U.S. Department of Education has thrown over $350 million dollars into developing the National Test that will provide a "uniform yardstick" for measuring each state, each school, and each student’s performance by 2014-2015.
Alleging that the Common Core is not a national curriculum because it was developed by the National Governor’s Association also rings hollow when states were forced to adopt it to be eligible to apply for tens of billions in federal money. "Race to the Top" required states to adopt the Common Core (as well as other federal educational policies). This extorted federal policy compliance, pure and simple.
Will "Race to the Top" bribery be used to extend the National Curriculum into science and social studies? Again, his address made it clear: "Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning... And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind...." Yes, he has made clear his plan is to continue allocation of federal education funds to those who will comply with federal education policies.
But did adopting the national common core raise standards in Massachusetts? No. That state had to drop standards to adopt the national core. And when some Kansas State Board of Education members asked KSDE staff if the Common Core was as strong as current Kansas standards, the answer was not unless Kansas could add 15 percent. (Each state can add a unique 15 percent, but must adopt the full common core. But the national assessment will only test the common core, not the state "add ons.") No, the Common Core quacks, walks, talks, and tests like a national duck. It is however, pure pork.
With opposition to No Child Left Behind running over 80 percent among some surveys of teachers and parents, it is surprising that the culprits clearly identified by the president are getting off the hook.
It is the state governors who have been clearly tagged as responsible for turning curricular responsibility over to the national government. Why are we not holding our governor’s "accountable"?
It is the states that continue to pay 93 cents out of every dollar of daily operating expenses for our schools. Education is THE major responsibility of each state, embedded in state constitutions. There is not one word in the U.S. Constitution giving the federal government any educational jurisdiction. Yet our governors handed a one-size-fits-all national curriculum to Washington!
As a result, we are already living with national policies written for inner-city schools that make absolutely no sense in rural areas, and this situation will soon get far worse.
Our President told us clearly that this standard curriculum was handed to Washington by "Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country." Perhaps it is time we asked our governors just what part of American history—and specifically "Benedict Arnold"—they do not understand?