Don’t Call Them State Standards; They Are Anything But That!

“In short, twenty-five people with no classroom experience just radically altered the classroom experience for millions of students in America.” 

Having taught Sophomore English, I am quick to identify misplaced modifiers, as I take writing very seriously. Perhaps the inappropriate adjective that infuriates me most is the third word in the phrase “Common Core State Standards.”

Let me state this clearly and bluntly: these are not STATE standards. They were written by twenty-five people, NOT by the states. They were merely adopted by the states, and since they are copy-righted, they cannot be changed. Some forty-five states are now saddled with this laundry list that is actually in some states weaker than the program that had already been in place.

The designers of Common Core were specific in using the word “state,” in order to disguise the overwhelming goal of Common Core: to align all fifty states into covering the same material. (In the 1990s, the US tried to create a set of national standards, and it failed miserably.) Part of their goal is understandable. A student moving from Wyoming to Florida should not have to suffer wildly different curricula as they travel from state to state.

While that sentiment is understandable, it’s not constitutional. The Constitution clearly states in the tenth amendment that powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. Education is a state issue, a fact conveniently and frequently ignored by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Each state has the sovereign right to establish their own standards and curricula to meet those standards.

Common Core has robbed the states of their ability to set their own standards, except for those states who did not adopt them. Supporters argue it is not curricula and each state is free to create their own paths to meeting Common Core. They conveniently ignore the fact that the starting point, Common Core, is the same for forty-five states, so exactly how dissimilar will they be? A horrific side-effect has been that certain states, like New York, have taken the lead in developing curricula, so other states, like Louisiana, simply adopt their already-developed work, no matter how strange it may be and how foreign it can be to the South.

Twenty five individuals wrote the standards in two committees, one in English Language Arts and in Mathematics, with four members serving on both committees. No states sent representatives to this selective organization paid for with Bill Gates’ grant money. No states served on the equally selective feedback committee or validation committee. In short, twenty-five people with no classroom experience just radically altered the classroom experience for millions of students in America. Many states and their state education boards backed the Common Core before it was even finished being written—Louisiana’s state legislature supported this plan in 2010, never having carefully observed the finished product—but this wholesale hijacking of the educational system was not ratified by the people or the parents who are now watching the frustration on their children’s faces as they now struggle with age-inappropriate materials and/or badly-designed handouts made by people with little educational experience.

Let’s just call a spade a spade: this is a corporate take-over of public education, funded with Gates’ money and coerced on several states, who took badly needed money in the Race to the Top grants from the US Department of Education. But don’t call it State Standards. Call it the Gang of Twenty-five’s standards, but last I heard, twenty-five people do not a state make.

Vincent P. Barras

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October 23, 2013 · 1:24 am

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