Ghosts and goblins aren’t the only things causing unease this Halloween. With their children settled into the 2014-15 school year, parents have growing concerns about the impact of Common Core. Here are 10 reasons why Common Core national standards and tests take American education in the wrong direction:
- Loss of state and local control. Adopting Common Core national standards and tests surrenders control of the content taught in local schools to distant national organizations and bureaucrats in Washington. It is the antithesis of reform that would put control of education in the hands of those closest to students: local school leaders and parents.
- Impact on private schools and homeschoolers. One of the goals of College Board President David Coleman is to more closely align the SAT with current high school curricula, which now means curricula informed by Common Core. Coleman was one of the architects of Common Core and took over the presidency of the College Board in May 2012. “The Common Core provides substantial opportunity to make the SAT even more reflective of what higher education wants,” Coleman said. With the SAT (and ACT and GED) aligned to Common Core, that could have a major impact on students in private schools and homeschooled students, who often take the college entrance exams.
- Implementation/testing. Even the National Education Association’s immediate past president, Dennis Van Roekel, has been critical of Common Core implementation. Earlier this year Van Roekel wrote “I am sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that in far too many states, implementation has been completely botched. Seven of  teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get [Common Core State Standards] implementation right. In fact, two-thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms.”
- Loss of parent voice. Upon being told by the principal at her child’s school that their mathematics program had to use certain textbooks because of Common Core and that there was nothing he could do about it, Heather Crossin, an Indiana mother and opponent of Common Core says,“That was the moment when I realized control of what was being taught in my child’s classroom — in a parochial Catholic school — had not only left the building, it had left the state.”
- The content! Dr. Sandra Stotsky has warned that college readiness will decrease as a result of Common Core English Language Arts standards, which include a marked shift from fiction in favor of informational texts. “By reducing literary study,” Stotsky notes, “Common Core decreases students’ opportunity to develop the analytical thinking once developed in just an elite group by the vocabulary, structure, style, ambiguity, point of view, figurative language and irony in classic literary texts.” Content-matter experts have concluded the mathematics standards do not prepare students for careers in STEM fields, and that by seventh grade, Common Core will leave American students two grade levels behind their international peers. Parents are seeing the convoluted math homework their children are bringing home and are frustrated. As one engineer father said of the mathematics homework his son brought home, “in the real world, simplification is valued over complication.”
- Federal fingerprints. Without congressional approval, the Obama administration has used a combination of carrots and sticks to spur states to sign on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Waivers from No Child Left Behind conditioned on common standards adoption, $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants, the direct federal financing of the national assessments and a “technical review panel” housed at the Department of Education all leave little doubt the federal government has been a driving force behind the effort for national standards and tests.
- The lack of evidence. We hear a lot about “internationally benchmarked” and rigorous standards, but the evidence is lacking. There is no indication that the Common Core was, in fact, internationally benchmarked. Even if it had been, national standards are unlikely to increase student performance relative to other nations. Many of the countries that perform worse than the United States on international assessments have national standards.
- Watering down college? What impact will Common Core have on the rigor of college courses? As former U.S. Department of Education official Ze’ev Wurman argues: “Everything will align – including private schools, including charter schools, because they want to get their kids to college. It used to be that the ACT could do what the colleges demanded of it. Suddenly the ACT is going to do—it’s actually done already—what the K-12 system demands of it. Same with SAT.”
- Informing bureaucrats, not parents. Information about how their children are mastering course content, gleaned from school assessments and by talking to teachers, will be far more valuable to parents than the type of information provided through national standards—information that is more useful to bureaucrats who distribute funding.
- One-size-fits-all approach instead of innovation! Common Core is the antithesis of the type of innovation that defines educational innovation: It is bureaucratic, top-heavy and inflexible. Far more promising efforts—such as school choice—are on the march across the country. We should strive to make it “common” for children to have choice in education.
Thankfully, Common Core isn’t like Hotel California—once you check in, you can check out, as states such as Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have shown. And once out of Common Core, states can refocus their attention on efforts that hold promise for improving educational outcomes. Chief among them: student-centered school choice options that increase opportunity for all.