Nationalized Education: The Common Core
We are on the verge of a major shift in education. By 2014, new federal education standards, known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI or CC), will impact every child—possibly including homeschoolers. States are being enticed by federal money to accept national standards, resulting in a national curriculum and the development of a national test.
Despite the fact that the Common Core educational standards for mathematics and English are controversial, the most significant change on the horizon is the shift in power and authority—the federal government is taking control away from the states and centralizing educational decisions at the federal level. This power grab removes decision making from states, local school boards, and ultimately from parents. It’s about controlling the agenda, and the agenda is more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Common Core Development
States were offered a total of $4.35 billion if they would adopt Common Core standards through a program called “Race to the Top.” Some states agreed even before standards were written. Now forty-five financially-strapped states and the District of Columbia have adopted these vague and subjective standards. This includes charter schools and virtual public-school-at-home programs in the forty-five states. In addition to the financial incentive for accepting CC standards, there is a penalty for not accepting them—denied access to Title I funding for low-income students. This is a big blow to state budgets.
The Commonwealth of Virginia did not adopt the Common Core because they have already invested large amounts of money and time in developing Virginia Standards of Learning (the SOLs)—standards they believe to be superior to Common Core standards.
The other states that have not adopted the Common Core standards are Texas, Nebraska, and Alaska. Minnesota adopted English CC standards, but refused to adopt the math standards.
National Student Database
The Common Core is closely related to the development of a nationwide student-tracking system—one that includes personal information on millions of public school students (including charter and public, virtual-school students) without their parents’ knowledge or consent. The 2009 stimulus package included a “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” that required developing a “longitudinal data system (LDS)” to collect information on public-school students.
Although student confidentiality laws were established in the 1970s, these laws have gradually changed with technology. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education rewrote privacy laws so a student’s information could be shared in a private database called inBloom. Private information such as names and addresses, social-security numbers, ethnicity, gender, family income, academic records, test scores, attendance, discipline history, medical records, nicknames, hobbies, religion, political affiliation, extracurricular activities, attitudes toward school, and psychological evaluations can be included.
The data can be shared with anyone, any company, and any organization, public or private—anyone with whom the school system chooses to share the information. Statewide data systems must be able to interface with databases beyond education such as military and employment databases and criminal justice and social services systems. So far there are 700+ elements identified for data collection by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
This massive database is already running with nine states on board: Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina. According to critics, parents in these states have not been notified about the database, nor have they been given the opportunity to opt their children out of the program.
During the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session, HEAV’s legislative team discovered and tracked a bill, SB 1069, that would have established the Virginia Longitudinal Data System and Advisory Council. According to Legislative Information System’s published description, the bill would “track and examine student progress from early childhood to postsecondary education to the student entering the workforce.” The bill passed the Senate, but failed in the House Committee on Appropriations…this year.
Impact on Virginia Homeschoolers
At this time, the Common Core does not directly apply to homeschools or private schools. Because of this, it’s easy for homeschoolers to think they will not be affected by public school standards and database sharing. But that may not be true.
There are several ways the Common Core could impact homeschoolers. Homeschoolers must show yearly evidence of progress, and a majority of homeschoolers use standardized achievement tests. As states adhere to the Common Core, we can expect standardized achievement tests to align with Common Core standards.
The same thing will happen with the PSAT for scholarships and the SAT and ACT tests for college entrance exams—Common Core standards will be included in these tests. Homeschool transcripts also might not be viewed in a positive light by admissions officers if they do not include Common Core standards.
An even more serious concern is that policy makers and lobbyists might influence state legislators to require ALL students to be taught with the national curriculum and tested according to Common Core standards. It’s hard to see this in Virginia’s future now, but administrations change and new state representatives are elected.
Common Core standards are national standards that will strengthen federal control over education, and weaken local schools’ direct accountability to taxpayers and parents. Common Core standards are now being taught in public schools and their affiliates (charter schools and public virtual schools) across the nation without parents’ knowledge. Intertwined with this is the development of a national database that will store and share children’s personal information without parents’ permission. This shift in power from state and local control of education to federal control is unprecedented.
Look for a second article on what is included in the Common Core standards, why teachers’ unions support the standards, and what public school parents and homeschoolers can do.