The Common Core Standards Are Here. Now. What Are They? What Do They Mean to Home Schoolers?

Taken from Practical Homeschooling Magazine #107
January/February/March 2013 Edition
www.home-school.com

“Despite three federal laws that prohibit federal departments or agencies from directing, supervising or controlling elementary and secondary school curricula, programs of instruction and instructional materials, the U.S. Department of Education…has placed the nation on the road to a national curriculum, according to a new report written by a former general counsel and former deputy general counsel of the U.S. Department of Education.”

So began a TruthInAmericanEducation.com story on the report The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers.   Sponsored by Pioneer Institute, the Federalist Society, the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute of California, it was released in February 2012.

As the report itself goes on to say,

With only minor exceptions, the General Education Provisions Act, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the ESEA, a amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, ban federal departments and agencies from directing, supervising, or controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials.

Left unchallenged by Congress, these standards and assessments will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary study in most states across the nation, running the risk that states will become little more than administrative agents for a nationalized K-12 program of instruction…

Who Are the Players?

As we have been pointing out since 2001, when we published Cathy Duffy’s insightful article about national standards, the federal government and associated players have used the fig leaf of “this is a state initiative” to disguise what is happening here.

We’re looking at a national curriculum, written by unaccountable and mostly invisible personnel, that is intended to subjugate the classroom teacher, bypass the local school board, and force kids into a cookie-cutter mold, while making some publishers very, very rich.

To begin with, The Road to a National Curriculum points out, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is a creature not of state legislatures but rather of two Washington, DC-based organizations, the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief Stat School Officers…

So you can just toss that word “state” out the window.  Your state government had absolutely nothing – zip – to do with developing these standards.  What they are responsible for is for falling for the “Race to the Top” bribes dangled before them – the chance of more federal education dollars for their state, if and only if their stat signed on to the Common Core standards.

Here’s how it worked…

In order to participate in the Race to the Top Fund, the Department required each state to adopt common K-12 standards [and]…to demonstrate work toward jointly developing and adopting a common set of evidence-based, internationally bench-marked K-12 standards…. The guidance to the peer reviewers of the Race to the Top applications points to an effort to compel a single set of standards: A stated earn[ed] “high” points if it [was] part of a standards consortium consisting of a majority of states that jointly develop[ed] and adopt[ed] common standards.  Conversely, a state receive[d] “medium” or “low” points “if the consortium include[d] one-half of the States in the country or less.”

So, they had to sign up for Common Core to even have a chance at those juicy federal funds.

Suckers.  Only 11 of the 46 states that signed on to Common Core “won” the Race to the Top funds, but all 46 are still bound by their commitment.

Now, let’s not make the mistake of casting this as a left-versus-right scenario.  It’s more of a “connected elite-versus-the rest of us” deal.

As Cathy Duffy said in 2001 (about an earlier push toward national standards), “Across the political spectrum, almost everyone from President George W. Bush to Senator Edward Kennedy supports the push for national standards and the testing necessary to support the standards”.

The outline and shape of the Common Core standards were designed by:

Achieve, Inc., the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, ACT, Inc., the College Board, the National Association of Stat Boards of Education, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

This is a list of bureaucracies and testing companies.  You will note that classroom teachers and parents were not on the list.

Cast Away the Ring

The reason that this national curriculum has sneaked up on us so successfully is that different people at different times thought their guy would be in charge.

The power to compel children to study some things and not others is so attractive, that we call it the Educational One Ring to Bind Them All.  Whoever wields the “ring of power” (e.g. control over the national curriculum) can clear the way for his party to stay in power almost forever, once the kids grow up and start voting.  They have the power to mold young minds and morals, which is why we’re seeing a concurrent push for “education” from birth on.  The earlier you get the kids, the more you can control them.

Homeschoolers are naturally inclined to be Frodos, not Saurons.  We want to help our own children, not to control anyone else’s.  But this time we can’t ignore what’s going on in the schools because, if we do, it won’t be long until our own home schools are in the Common Core crosshairs.

As Cathy Duffy said in 2001…

the standards and testing movement…poses the most serious threat to private schools who wish to pursue their own “standards” based on philosophical outlooks and values that differ from that which buttress the standards/testing movement.  For example, classical education…Many new classical schools have opened in recent years.  Their courses of study usually differ dramatically from those of government schools.

I think we can agree that most home schools “differ dramatically” from classrooms.  And that was before the Common Core descended upon us to ratchet up the early academics, decimate the literature taught in middle and high school, fog up the math curriculum. etc.

What to Do

1.  Consider joining Home School Legal Defense Association (hslda.org – a year’s family membership is $115).  They have been opposing national standards for years.  Also, join your state home school group.

2. Encourage home school curriculum providers not to adapt their products to the Common Core.  (This is not the same thing as “aligning” the product to the CC, which means just showing how it already meets or exceeds requirements.)  More on this in the future.

3.  After taking these actions, ignore the Core as long as you can.  Home school like it doesn’t exist.  Use your educational freedom!

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