Anti-Common Core sentiment in the Kansas Legislature has resulted in another bill that would direct Kansas schools to develop new standards—yet again. This action appears driven by a general antipathy for the federal government’s 15 years of meddling in state education policy.
Education has always been and remains a “state’s right.” President Bush extorted policy compliance by tying it to federal Title money. While Common Core was developed by the chief school officers—state commissioners and superintendents across the country—it became a federal curriculum when it was tied to federal education money under the Race to the Top competition. Despite renaming No Child Left Behind as the Every Student Succeeds Act, the NCLB policies and curricula have become embedded in state education regulations in 43 states. That includes Kansas where the College and Career Ready Standards are Common Core-inspired.
After hearing a Common Core opponent from Wisconsin testify, the Kansas House Education Committee took the anti-Common Core HB 2676 and moved it into Substitute House Bill 2292. This bill also requires that Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs be aligned with the newly-required Kansas standards.
While this anti-fed action is simple-minded knee-jerk politics, the opposition’s sky-is-falling response is hardly more credible. Both sides are under the illusion that changing paperwork dramatically changes teaching practices in the classroom. Both sides are wrong.
In 1987, the State Board of Education was one of the first states to mandate sex and AIDS education. In 2005, the KSBE removed this state mandate. Those teachers who had previously included sex education before 1987 taught it competently before, during and after the mandate. Those who were not well-trained in sex education adopted anemic Sex Respect programs and dropped the topic as soon as the mandate ended. Policies changed. Classroom practices did not.
In 1999-2000, I was on the Science Standards Committee that rewrote the second revision. That was the time the State Board removed the evolution section and made national news. Two years later, after another Board election, evolution was returned. When Kansas biology teachers met for their annual meetings, it was obvious that removing evolution from the standards had increased, not decreased, the extent evolution was taught in biology classes. With the highest belief in evolution of any state surveyed, Kansas biology teachers integrated evolution into every lesson they taught. The late Professor John Moore of UC-Riverside told me to expect the Board action to cause an increase in evolution teaching. He was correct.
It is difficult for folks in high positions to realize that in a profession, practice is not determined by directives from above, but by the education of the professionals. Education schools also appear gullible to this “better education through paperwork” myth. But even if you legislate that we teach that the earth is flat, evolution is wrong, and global warming does not exist, the competent professional teacher is not going to comply. What teachers teach in the classroom is dependent on their professional training. Simply, a science education has more power than legislators or state board members.
There is only one worldwide universal science. It is the same chart of chemical elements that hangs in classrooms worldwide. And gravity does not work differently in Russia. The Advanced Placement curriculum was developed long before state standards and the International Baccalaureate curriculum is a product of Europe.
I have no love of the educationist Next Generation Science Standards that omit animals, plants, microbes and human anatomy and physiology. But good biology teachers go ahead and teach this content anyway. Professional teachers can ignore the NGSS and they can ignore any new Kansas standards as well.
Kansas does not need to waste $9 million and two years of professionals’ time writing more standards. Indeed, issues such as this are the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education. They are none of the Kansas Legislature’s business.