Thursday, August 8, 2013

Common Core Resistance Growing More . . . Common

Underlying themes for the rambling wreck of Obama's presidency can be hard to spot.  But one looks pretty clear.  Obama and his followers believe that the federal government can take better care of Americans than state and local governments, or even the individuals themselves.  Obamacare represents one initiative designed to yank decision-making within the beltway.  Farther under the radar lies the Common Core initiative.

Common Core attempts to create national standards of student achievement in key subjects.  It relies heavily on standardized testing to quantify learning outcomes.  

But now, several states have opted out of the program.  

Last week, Georgia joined Alabama, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Oklahoma in making the decision to use their own standardized tests instead of the common national test advocated by Common Core.  With such a large defection of key populous states from different regions, Common Core backers complain that the sampling (now at 22) will be unable to give experts a handle on what national standards ought to be.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that state education officials cited cost and efficiency in their judgment to not implement the test.  An official said “Georgia can create an equally rigorous measurement without the high costs associated with this particular test. Just as we do in all other branches of state government, we can create better value for taxpayers while maintaining the same level of quality.”

States originally signed onto the program to receive a bribery grant from the Department of Education related to the Race to the Top program.  Since receiving the money, many states have balked at certain aspects or dragged their feet.  According to a Breitbart evaluation, the tests are long, cost too much money, and assume a higher level of technology than many school systems have.

In other words, Washington education bureaucrats designed something perfect for their suburbs, but not the inner cities or backcountry districts.  

The Cato Institute accuses advocates of Common Core of purposeful silence on the issue of how deeply Washington experts were involved in establishing the standards.  They say that Common Core may be hoist by this petard.  The standards depend upon state testing participation.  If states do not participate, the system collapses.

Opposition to Common Core testing does not just come from conservative and libertarian groups.  A National Education Association delegate expressed concern over "overtesting and the diminution of instructional time."  California Teachers' Association president Dean Fogel adds his concern that "There's nobody in this room, in any town in the whole country, that doesn't understand that this high-stakes testing has raged way out of control. It's time for NEA to tell the truth and be that voice. We have to come out strong and be very clear with people that this high-stakes-testing mania has got to stop."

Why do opponents want to kill Common Core?  Besides the expense and time involved, testing in more subjective areas, such as English, could be biased against students from backgrounds different than suburban and affluent urban areas.   For example, different regions and communities have different usages of words that are still proper English, but of different usage than elsewhere.  States and local districts have a better chance of constructing a test, or different tests, fair to the students in their care

Common Core relies heavily on testing to demonstrate its effectiveness.  With opposition coming from teachers' unions and state legislatures to that very thing, national standards advocates may have to go back to the drawing board.

Or the federal government can look at its long record of failure in education  and give up its self-assumed role as guider of state and local policy.

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