CCSSO Releases C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards

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Earlier this month the Council of Chief State School Officers released the draft of the “College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards.  I just got my hands on a copy yesterday and skimmed through it.

It focuses on civics, economics, geography and history.  States involved in the project are: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

It is unclear what state involvement in the creation of Social Studies standards means for future implementation.  I’m not certain whether these states signed an Memorandum of Understanding similar to what they did with the Common Core State Standards.  You can see that some of the same players are involved as associate members, such as, Pearson.  It is heavily tied into the Common Core ELA standards which was expected.

Having skimmed through this my primary concern is the encouragement of civic and political activism.  While on its face that isn’t a bad thing, but I have to wonder what is encouraged.  I saw where potential indoctrination could occur within the Civics section.  I have little hope from what I’ve seen from progressive elements within public education that this won’t be the case.  The task force of professional organizations related to this gives me little hope for ideological diversity and I  while I don’t know for certain looking at the writing team (pg. 8) I am doubtful it exists there as well.

I noticed that on pg. 29 it is mentioned we live in a constitutional democracy when in fact we live in a constitutional republic.  It is troubling that those writing this document couldn’t get something as basic as that right.

Pg. 18 points out their definition of an “active and responsible citizen” which appears to be what they hope the “product” of these standards will be:

Active and responsible citizens identify and analyze public problems; deliberate with other people about how to define and address issues; take constructive, collaborative action; reflect on their actions; create and sustain groups; and influence institutions both large and small. They vote, serve on juries, follow the news and current events, and participate in voluntary groups and efforts. Teaching students to act in these ways—as citizens—significantly enhances preparation for college and career. Many of the same skills that are needed for active and responsible citizenship—working effectively with other people, deliberating and reasoning quantitatively about issues, following the news, and forming and sustaining groups—are also crucial to success in the 21st century workplace and in college. Individual mastery of content often no longer suffices; students should also develop the capacity to work together to apply knowledge to real problems. Thus, a rich social studies education is an education for college, career, and civic life.

Discussion of “Applying Civic Virtues and Democratic Principles” (pgs. 31-32) also raise a red flag for me.  They define Democratic principles in their glossary on pg. 70 as “the fundamental ideas and ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and other early influential documents.”

That’s fine, but then one of the goals is “describe democratic principles such as equality and fairness.”  Also what do they consider a “human right” that isn’t a “constitutional right”?

Anyway, my intent here is not to provide an in-depth review, but share a couple of thoughts after skimming through this document.  I’m sure many questions will be asked and the final product will look different.  Please take the time to read through the framework below and share your thoughts.

The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

Shane Vander Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Caffeinated Thoughts, a popular Christian conservative blog in Iowa. He is also the President of 4:15 Communications, a social media & communications consulting/management firm, along with serving as the communications director for American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative.  Prior to this Shane spent 20 years in youth ministry serving in church, parachurch, and school settings.  He has taught Jr. High History along with being the Dean of Students for Christian school in Indiana.  Shane and his wife home school their three teenage children and have done so since the beginning.   He has recently been recognized by Campaigns & Elections Magazine as one of the top political influencers in Iowa. Shane and his family reside near Des Moines, IA.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Google +.

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Myths Verses Facts

Myth
.  Common Core (CC) was a state-led initiative.
Fact

.  The CC standards were initiated by private interests in Washington, DC, without any representation from the states. Eventually the creators realized the need to present a façade of state involvement and therefore enlisted the National Governors Association (NGA) (a trade association that doesn’t include all governors) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), another DC-based trade association. Neither of these groups had a grant of authority from any particular state or states to write the standards. The bulk of the creative work was done by Achieve, Inc., a DC-based nonprofit that includes many progressive education reformers who have been advocating national standards and curriculum for decades. Massive funding for all this came from private interests such as the Gates Foundation.

Myth.  The federal government is not involved in the Common Core scheme.
Fact

.  The US Department of Education (USED) was deeply involved in the meetings that led to creation of Common Core. Moreover, it has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the two consortia that are creating the national tests that will align with CC.  USED is acting as the enforcer to herd states into the scheme (see next myth).

Myth.  States that adopted CC did so voluntarily, without federal coercion.

Fact
.  Most states that adopted CC did so to be eligible to compete for federal Race to the Top funding. To have a chance at that money, recession-racked states agreed to adopt the CC standards and the aligned national tests sight unseen. In addition, the Obama Administration tied No Child Left Behind waivers to CC adoption, making it very difficult for a state to obtain a waiver without agreeing to accept CC.

Myth
.  Under Common Core, the states will still control their standards.

Fact
.  A state that adopts CC must accept the standards word for word. It may not change or delete anything, and may allow only a small amount of additional content (which won’t be covered on the national tests).

Myth
.  Common Core is only a set of standards, not curriculum; states will still control their curriculum.

Fact

.  The point of standards is to drive curriculum. Ultimately, all the CC states will be teaching pretty much the same curriculum. In fact, the testing consortia being funded by USED admitted in their grant applications that they would use the money to develop curriculum models.

Myth.  
The Common Core standards are rigorous and will make our children “college-ready.”

Fact

.  Even the Fordham Institute, a proponent of CC, admits that several states had standards superior to CC and that many states had standards at least as good. CC has been described as a “race to the middle.”  And as admitted by one drafter of the CC math standards, CC is designed to prepare students for a nonselective two-year community college, not a four-year university.

The only mathematician on the CC Validation Committee said that the CC math standards will place our students about two years behind their counterparts in high-performing countries. An expert in English education said that CC’s English language arts standards consist of “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” She also suspects from her analysis of work done so far on the standards that the reading level deemed sufficient for high-school graduation will be at about the 7th-grade level. And CC revamps the American model of classical education to resemble a European model, which de-emphasizes the study of creative literature and places students on “tracks” (college vs. vocational) at an early age.

Myth
.  The Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked.”

Fact

.  No information was presented to the Validation Committee to show how CC stacked up against standards of other high-achieving countries. In fact, the CC establishment no longer claims that the standards are “internationally benchmarked” – the website now states that they are “informed by” the standards of other countries. There is no definition of “informed by.”

Myth
.  We need common standards to be able to compare our students’ performance to that of students in other states.

Fact. 

If we want to do that, we already can. In the elementary/middle school years we have the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test; in high school we have the SAT and ACT.

Myth.  
We need common standards to help students who move from state to state.

Fact. 

The percentage of students who fit that description is vanishingly small (much less than 2%); most families move, if at all, within states, not to other states. It is nonsensical to bind our entire education system in a straightjacket to benefit such a small number of students.

From the Stop Common Core:  Reclaiming Local Control in Education website page called Myths Verses Facts.  To download this in a table click here.