The Common Core: Changes Are Coming
Although homeschoolers are not part of the public-education system, we cannot escape the far-reaching effects of the Common Core. These national educational standards are on track to influence the education of fifty million K-12 students in America—including homeschool and private-school students—unless something changes quickly. The Common Core State Standard Initiative—providing standards in math and English language arts—is now being rolled out in the majority of public schools.
Without state or national debate and without state or congressional approval, this unprecedented move by the federal government is set to develop a national educational program. Control of mathematics and English education has now been removed from most communities and state boards of education. In addition, by 2014, federal testing will be in place to provide state accountability.
Attempts to impose academic standards on public educators began in the early 1980’s. It shifted when President George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in January 2002, provided a financial incentive for states to create their own academic standards. This resulted in 50 states with 50 different standards. It was during this time that Virginia developed the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL’s) that are still in place today. So far, Virginia has refused to throw out the SOL’s and replace them with the new Common Core standards.
However, forty-six other state governors voluntarily agreed to implement the Common Core even before reviewing the standards. Virginia, Texas, Nebraska, and Alaska refused the CC and the monetary incentive. Minnesota accepted only the English CC standards, but rejected the math standards. Several states are now reconsidering their decision to accept the Common Core because of the high cost of implementing the standards.
Because of the carefully chosen name, it sounds as though states were involved in developing the “Common” Core, but they were not. The CC was developed and copyrighted by private individuals and companies (most with no educational experience). The project has been funded largely by a multi-million-dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Common Core standards were not subject to public meetings, community discussion, or any form of voter accountability. There have been no pilot programs and no studies showing the results of this one-size-fits-all program. The experimental standards curtail classic literature in favor of reading information texts. They delay the introduction of higher math skills until later in high school. None of the content changes are supported by academic research.
Invasion of Privacy
In addition, the 2009 Stimulus Bill requires states to develop and begin tracking students in a database. Tracking will begin in the preschool years and end when a student enters the workforce. With the development of this database, states will begin to link CC assessment results to other personal, identifiable, student information—information such as student attitudes, disabilities, religious affiliation, medical information, family income, and hundreds of other academic and social markers. The information will be available to a variety of departments within the federal government as well as unknown private companies.
Collecting and sharing personal information without a parent’s permission has raised serious questions about the appropriate role of government.
Should parents be concerned about the federal government’s increasing role in education? The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States or the people.” Based on this amendment, it has long been established that educational decisions and oversight belong to the states, not the federal government.
The Common Core was not developed by the states or local citizens; it was not a grassroots movement. Although federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing a curriculum, the developers of the CC found a way around the law—they linked federal, Title I funds to the adoption of the Common Core.
Although Virginia is one of the few states that has rejected the Common Core, we cannot expect to escape its influence. Virginia public schools will have to align subject and textbook content with the CC. Why? Because schools must ensure student success on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams—exams that are already aligning with the Common Core. This will definitely impact homeschoolers who plan to attend college and must score well in order to be accepted.
David Coleman, an architect of the Common Core AND the College Board president, said he wants the college entrance exams to reflect the new standards.
In line with the SAT and ACT changes, the GED assessment recently underwent a major modification as well. The GED will begin using its new version in 2014. GED representatives stated the reason for the change was because “the shift to the Common Core standards is happening nationwide at the current time.”
Closer to home for homeschoolers, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford 10—popular standardized achievement tests used by homeschoolers—are now in the process of being aligned with the CC.
Like test providers, private curriculum publishers (including some homeschool publishers) don’t want to be left out of the new education market. They are also working to align their content with Common Core standards.
Steps to Take
Although this fast-moving educational train has left the station, it’s not too late to change its direction. Homeschool parents must be actively involved in the upcoming statewide elections. Make sure the candidates you support understand the importance of this issue. Educate them. Negative changes in the make-up of the General Assembly and the upcoming gubernatorial election could have serious effects on home education. Work for the candidate who supports your values!
Share this important information with the parents in your neighborhood. As more people understand the dangers of the Common Core, more people will speak out against it. Parents of all students who are concerned with freedom in education must fight this battle. Encourage your friends and neighbors to oppose further encroachment on the autonomy of local schools.
Because what happens in public schools will affect all of us, all Virginia citizens should contact the state school board (BOE@doe.virginia.gov), the state superintendent (Dr. Patricia Wright, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction: 804- 225-2023/ Patricia.Wright@doe.virginia.gov), and the governor’s office (www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm) to urge them to stand firm against nationalized education. If enough states reject the Common Core, there is a chance the SAT and ACT will be modified, or another college entrance test could be developed.
We agree with ParentalRights.org: In order for homeschooling to succeed, we must empower parents. Ultimately, parents are the best protectors of their children. As technology advances and more government agencies want personal information about your children, resist the pressure to share private information. HEAV will actively oppose legislation to put the State Longitudinal Database System in place. We will vigilantly watch for changes in the homeschool statute that could possibly link us to a statewide or national database. We will adamantly oppose any connections to the Common Core standards for homeschoolers.
HEAV is thankful for the work of ParentalRights.org in initiating and passing parental-rights legislation in Virginia, but we must also have parental rights protected at the national level. We urge you to support the proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It will strengthen the role of all parents by declaring that “the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.”