At a recent meeting of the government relations committee meeting for the Wake County School Board, school board member Jim Martin called current legislative efforts to correct Common Core problems “very much a political overreach.” According to news reports, Martin then fired this shot: “It’s not clear that the folks writing this legislation know what curriculum are.”
Mr. Martin (not to be confused with the former governor of the same name) thereby fired one of the first volleys in the local fight over Common Core legislation. Remember the charge because you’ll hear it over and over. Anyone who attempts to revise or remove Common Core standards will be called an extremist or accused of injecting politics into education. The plan seems to be: When you can’t respond to your opponent with facts, hurl baseless charges.
The Wake County Board of Education is clueless about the growing public backlash against Common Core. Their ignorance is fueling their anger at public officials who dare change their minds about Common Core when they learn about its significant problems and questions that have arisen with the implementation of the educational standards.
Jim Martin needs to realize there are many very smart people that do not share his view of Common Core. Let’s get something straight: Common Core Standards were only adopted after the feds enticed states with millions in Race-to-the-Top grants. Common Core supporters needed help because states were yawning at the standards and saying “no thanks” when asked if they would adopt them.
When you add the chance to win millions in federal funds, however, it’s not difficult to understand that states suddenly looked at Common Core differently. The chance to reap $400 million, especially during a recession, caught North Carolina’s eye, and our state signed on to Common Core standards immediately. The final Common Core Standards for math and English were released June 2, 2010. The State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt Common Core standards on June 2, 2010. Yes, those dates are right. There was no review of the costs or impacts of Common Core Standards on students and teachers.
We’re constantly told to defer to the experts and administrators on matters involving educational practice. We’re told educators have the wisdom needed to make good decisions. But what’s wise about adopting national standards without a full examination of the costs and impact on students and teachers? What’s wise about adopting a set of standards that has never been pilot-tested, is justly criticized for being age-inappropriate, and raises significant evaluation concerns for teachers?
These concerns have come to light since the standards have been adopted and entered our classrooms. These concerns have also ignited a brushfire of opposition against Common Core in states across the country. That opposition is widespread and has come from conservatives, Tea Partiers, progressives and libertarians. It has propelled efforts to fight or remove Common Core in 35 states. And it’s growing.
Common Core proponents seem puzzled as to why people would oppose the standards. I’m not. Common Core has a multitude of problems. The critiques are philosophical, pragmatic or political and ably put forth by individuals across the political spectrum. It’s not enough for Common Core backers to repeat, “North Carolina needs higher standards and we can’t go back to the old standards which are clearly inferior to what we have.” Thatis not a solution. Such statements fail to answer any of the major criticism against the standards.
When Common Core was adopted, educators, parents and the general public knew little about the standards. Four years later, we know much more. And there is a lot to criticize.
Jim Martin calls legislative proposals to address Common Core “political overreach.” I’d ask Mr. Martin: If Common Core Standards really are the best standards, why would the federal government have to bribe the states to adopt them? Why are states dropping Common Core and its testing requirements? Why are parents pulling children out of public schools? Why don’t we see any of the best private schools adopting Common Core Standards?
These questions are never answered by our friends who support Common Core. Instead these questions are met with accusations of “political overreach.”
Here we have a member of one of the most liberal school boards in North Carolina saying the legislative proposals to revise and review Common Core Standards are “political overreach.” Both proposals were meant as a response to the overreach of the federal government and private entities who sought to shoehorn American education with a common set of academic standards. Both the House and Senate proposals are motivated by a desire to correct the problems of Common Core standards, have North Carolina assert its constitutional authority over education, develop and control its own standards, and ensure that standards are the highest possible and appropriate for students.
I guess Jim Martin doesn’t believe those aims are legitimate concerns of state government. In Martin’s world there is no overreach in the creation of Common Core – just in those who seek to end or limit its impact. I would suggest that the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians would disagree.
Political overreach? The charge is as tiresome as it is untrue.