WICHITA, Kan. – Common Core. Two words that make the “Who is the best Kansas college basketball team” debate seem downright tame.

common core twoCommon Core finds its way into just about any education policy discussion and pugilists on both sides start to jab.

As with most questions of public policy, Common Core (CC) certainly started out with the best of intentions but has become just another roadblock between Kansas children and their future success. At one point the saving grace of CC was the promise of high, transparent standards by which Kansas schools would be graded. However, the baggage that now accompanies those standards, with no promise of them remaining high, is too much and Kansas should return to the state performance standards we had prior to passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Also interesting, CC recently underwent a name change but remain CC is spirit and fact – They’re now called the Kansas College and Career Readiness Standards.

The last federal intervention, NCLB, is where any notion of CC being a state initiative went off the rails. Assume for a moment that CC supporters are correct in saying it was initially a state-led effort and that the Feds jumped onto an already-moving train. The reality is that most states only got on board to CC when they were offered a federal waiver from the impossible mandates of NCLB – 100% student proficiency by 2014 at the hazard of federal education dollars. Not to mention federal enticements of more money in the 2009 “stimulus” bill. Kansas applied for the stimulus’ “Race to The Top” money but didn’t receive it while our state has received a waiver from NCLB. Minutes from Kansas Board of Education meetings show that Kansas was signing onto the standards during the same period as the “enticements” were being offered.

That is the kind of “voluntary” decision that only Michael Corleone could love. To think that the federal government will not use further enticements and the power they already have to wield influence on CC disregards both common sense and recent history. We need look no further than NCLB to hear Washington say they will not affect the classroom. But, you would be hard pressed to find a teacher who does not bemoan NCLB as interfering in their ability to teach.

If NCLB was an unwarranted, unprecedented federal intrusion into the classroom why welcome more of the same with Common Core?

To believe that CC will remain state-led with Kansas able to control our own destiny is to ignore the simple experience of getting a few friends to agree on where to eat dinner. Magnify this phenomenon to 40-some states trying to agree on education standards and we begin to see where Kansas control may be eroded. It is also hard to imagine that what is in the standards will not ultimately dictate curriculum and teaching. How is CC any different than the NCLB refrain of “teaching to the test”? Because, we know that what is tested is what is taught?

Even college-bound private school students or homeschoolers will feel the weight of CC as the ACT and SAT are both being aligned to Common Core standards.
Recent CC test results in New York and Kentucky also show the “high standards” are under attack. New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year said that “The New York Common Core test results are the fruit of a poisonous tree.” While the leading teachers union in New York recently called for a CC moratorium in the face of high-stakes testing. If CC can survive these early attacks, we will likely be left with CC following the course of NCLB, which, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says, “led to a dumbing down of standards.”

Good thing, then, that Kansas already has our pre-NCLB standards on the shelf. Surely, any cost to update those would be no more than the cost of implementing CC standards and would ensure Kansas-led decision making. Suffice it to say, Kansas’ pre-NCLB standards required “Proficiency with difficult, rigorous and formidable material…” and would be a step in the right direction from where Kansas standards are currently.

The evidence is overwhelming; Kansas should pass on CC and return to our pre-NCLB standards. Those standards are on the shelf while Common Core will corrode public, private, and home schools. We’d also be sticking our head in sand to believe that Kansas will stay in control of K-12 education with a 40-some state consortium and the Feds already interfering with this “state-led initiative.”

Authored by James Franko – Kansas Policy Institute 

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