Acts of deception have morphed into bullying

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Perhaps the greatest act of deception on behalf of Common Core is the preposterous claim by its major author Senator Lamar Alexander about what he had accomplished with the recent re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In an op-ed in The Tennessean on Dec. 12, 2015, Senator Alexander implied that the reauthorization,  known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), “repealed the federal Common Core mandate and reversed the trend toward a national school board.”

But as Peter Cunningham, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education, points out, the new law “mandates the very thing he rails against”: “college- and career-ready” standards. Thus, the new law all but guarantees that Common Core State Standards — or a close imitation under a different name — will likely remain in place in most states.”

Apparently, “rebranding” is the strategy du jour that pro-Common Core forces and state departments of education will use to deceive parents and state legislators into thinking that Common Core has been replaced.

That is what seems to be taking place in Texas and Oklahoma. Even though both states passed laws against Common Core, their state departments of education made sure that most members of their reviewing/revising committees (whose members were chosen by their state departments of education) knew in advance they had to come up with Common Core-compliant English language arts standards — in the sense that these standards lend themselves to ACT’s Aspire tests and grade-level standards.

ACT claims that its tests are not aligned to Common Core’s college and career readiness standards but to its own college and career readiness standards. Nevertheless, ACT refuses to make clear how its own standards differ from Common Core’s. Mercedes Schneider gave it the old college-try, but didn’t get very far.

Unfortunately, rebranding efforts will be assisted by an overly gullible media. Despite the Washington Post’s own reporting on how Common Core was created, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, an assistant “fact-checker” for the Post who may still believe in the tooth fairy, claims in a March 14, 2016 report that  “governors and schools chiefs of most states crafted the program.”

State departments of education and local school administrators have also been given a green light to try out several new bullying techniques in order to reduce “opt-outs,” the Achilles Heel of the Common Core project. Recently, the superintendent of the Ridgewood, New Jersey public schools warned parents that more than 5 percent opt-outs may put at risk some of the money that USED gives states and that the funding of teacher pensions may be threatened. A Rhode Island parent warned other parents in the Providence Journal that opt-outs may put at risk schools that would otherwise earn “commendations” and that graduates seeking to enroll in colleges holding “commendations” in high regard would be hurt.

All that most parents can do henceforth is keep their children home on days when the schools give federal or state mandated tests in order to make mandated tests invalid—and the curriculum they drive not worth teaching to.

More than 5 percent opt-outs will make the participation rate less than 95 percent. At some point, civil rights organizations will wake up and realize that Common Core’s standards were deliberately dumbed down by the Gates Foundation and its supporters and the two organizations asked to co-sponsor their development — National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) — because these organizations and many school administrators at the local level did not think most members of certain minorities could learn to read above a grade 8 level or more than Algebra I.

The lowering of academic standards has been going on for decades in our public schools, which is why many students have been graduating from high school unable to do authentic college-level work when they enroll in college. As mathematician Ralph Raimi noted in his chapter in What’s at Stake in the K-12 Standards War (published in 2000 by Peter Lang), Euclid died in 1975. Raimi was referring to proof-based geometry. Many more students than at present will go to college after passing a fake “college readiness test” that no parent or legislature can examine. But industry will simply bring in more authentically educated workers from other countries on green cards.

Who will be blamed? Communities that refuse to tax themselves even more than they now do so that they can pay their teachers to address reading standards in grades 6-12 that are not standards at all.

Sandra Stotsky

Sandra Stotsky

Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas. Read her past columns here.