How Do You Feel about Common Core?

Common Core is an educational initiative that defines what K-12 students should be learning, and what they should know by the end of each year. Sounds fine. Common Core isn’t a set curriculum, but simply a means of setting education standards across states to ensure that the quality of education is consistent upon graduation. It supplies a series of evaluations for both students and teachers to verify that schools are keeping to the standards. Still sounds kind of okay, although it’s obvious that teachers will spend a lot of time “teaching to the test” in order to preserve their jobs. So why all the backlash?

Less Literature, More Technical Writing

When it comes to Common Core’s questionable literary standards, you may not be immediately struck by its lack of focus on the classics. In the primary grades, students are given 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction (instructional) reading material from which to learn reading and writing. In grades 6 through 12 the focus shifts gradually to 70% technical, instructional language material.

Literature is one of the most important ways that culture is passed along from generation to generation. But Common Core deemphasizes its value. By the 12th grade, students will have learned that it is their ability to decode and/or write technical material that is important, not their knowledge of their culture’s literary heritage.

“I Can’t Do This Math!”

There is also a growing objection among parents to the indecipherable math curriculum that cuts them off from their ability to help their children with homework. Specifically, Common Core does not emphasize “performance procedures,” otherwise known as arithmetic computations, like they do in countries that rank top in math achievement. Instead, math is taught in a step-by-step methodology that often penalizes children who have natural mathematical abilities.

You’ll find new techniques and instructional methods that are more than questionable – from a hundred’s chart to teach basic addition to importance being placed on the order of factors in a multiplication equation – much of which has forward-thinking mathematicians scratching their heads.

You would think that a major educational initiative designed to improve our country’s educational standard would look to the countries that rank high in math, and draw on their success. That’s not the case with Common Core. Instead, it goes against traditional and easy-to-understand instruction.

In its desire to force feed your children “discoveries,” it has made simple arithmetic into a kind of indecipherable “mathematical legalese” that can only be understood by the creators themselves, if at all. It also manages to make a subject that should be full of “a-ha” moments into something so bland, broken down into minute steps and specific instruction, that doesn’t allow any room for creative thinking or natural talent.

College Professors Object

Kentucky was the first state to adopt Common Core standards and some of the students brought up within the educational standards are just now entering college. Many students are finding that they need remedial math classes to fill in the gaps, where Common Core failed them.

The numbers of students lacking in mathematical abilities are so high there that whereas remedial math instruction used to be a separate class, now professors are encouraged to let them “catch up” while attending regular math classes – bringing down the level of instruction for all. A group of “almost all” the math department heads of Kentucky's four-year universities has formally objected to this university-wide plan.

But the pressure is on. The college professors are now encouraged by the companies that design Common Core materials to “reassess their own curricula . . . in light of these new common state benchmarks.” In other words, they are encouraged to lower their normal college level standards to accommodate the less-skilled students Common Core high school graduates. So where does that leave your children? With an educational initiative that’s actually working hard to lower our educational standards in its attempt to defend itself.

Where Did Common Core Come From?

It’s surprising to find out that an educational program so widely adopted in the public schools was designed by a business organization, Achieve, Inc. in Washington, D.C. Half of its board members are also affiliated with big businesses: leaders from Prudential Financial, Intel, and IBM. Federal endorsement and authority is seemingly granted by The National Governors Organization and the Council of Chief State School Officers, but they are both trade organizations that don’t carry any government sanction at all.

So how did Common Core get so popular in the first place if it is creating so much dissension now? In 2009 over 40 states hurriedly adopted the new standards for their local schools, some before they were even written! The reason is simple; all their federal educational grants were tied to their acceptance of the new system. Schools were simply bullied into adoption financially.

Data Tracking and Common Core

Many educators have discovered that by agreeing to put Common Core in their schools, they also agreed to a data tracking system called Longitudinal Database System (SLDS), which tracks and stores “personally identifiable information.” This information is shared with "partners with education technology companies, content providers and developers to support the creation of products compatible with this infrastructure."

What Do They Want To Know About Me?

In 2012 twenty-four states and territories accepted grants that implement data mining in their school systems. Parents’ names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, places of birth, and mothers’ maiden names are the usual data collected without any parental consent necessary, but there is also a category called “sensitive information” that will be sought. According to the company brief on “data stewardship,” that includes the following information:

  • Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent
  • Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family
  • Sex behavior or attitudes
  • Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior
  • Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships
  • Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers
  • Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent 
  • Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).

The assessment and data tracking company states that this type of “sensitive information” would require written parental consent. Some have speculated that a child who does not obtain parental consent will be in a special category anyway.

Physical Data Tracking Technologies

There are also a variety of technologies developed to track student information. This includes technology which will be used to effectively “measure” each child. The “facial expression camera,” for instance, is a device that can be used to detect emotion. Other devices, such as the “posture analysis seat,” “pressure mouse,” and “wireless skin conductance sensor,” which looks like a wide, black bracelet strapped to a child’s wrist, are all designed to collect “physiological response data from a biofeedback apparatus that measures blood volume, pulse, and galvanic skin response to examine student frustration.”

“Just Say No”

In recent years, there has been a new development within these very same states that adopted the standards and received the money for it. Some states are opting out of automatic acceptance of the assessment programs for Common Core. These are the programs that track student and teacher compliance with Common Core standards and achievement. Utah, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Florida have withdrawn from the Common Core Assessment Consortium. Specifically, they have rejected either Smarter Balanced or PARCC testing company products, in favor of choosing their own assessment tools.

One teacher put it this way: Mike Parsons, a veteran teacher in Huntsville, Alabama, spoke out about privacy and data collection concerns. “We’re starting to profile our kids,” he said. “Parents are unaware of this.”

The complaints against Common Core are many and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

How do you feel about the standards?

Tags : education   school   common core   

Casey Cisneros
Is all that data tracking really true? That sounds so incredibly scary.
Tricia Goss
Thankful that our state (Texas) has not adopted Common Core. Some of my best friends are teachers in other states and they despise it, as well.