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.

Is The U.S. Dept. of Education Violating Federal Law by Directing Standards, Tests & Curricula?

Posted on February 11, 2012 by truthed

BOSTON, MA —Despite three federal laws that prohibit federal departments or agencies from directing, supervising or controlling elementary and secondary school curricula, programs of instruction and instructional materials, the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) has placed the nation on the road to a national curriculum, according to a new report written by a former general counsel and former deputy general counsel of the United States Department of Education.

The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers  (also embedded below) is sponsored by Pioneer Institute, the Federalist Society, the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute of California.

With only minor exceptions, the General Education Provisions Act, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), ban the Department from directing, supervising, or controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials.

“The Department has designed a system of discretionary grants and conditional waivers that effectively herds states into accepting specific standards and assessments favored by the Department,” said Robert S. Eitel, who co-authored the report with Kent D. Talbert.

The authors find that the Obama administration has used the Race to the Top Fund and the Race to the Top Assessment Program to push states to adopt standards and assessments that are substantially the same across nearly all states. “By leveraging funds through its Race to the Top Fund and the Race to the Top Assessment Program, the Department has accelerated the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards (“CCSS”) in English language arts and mathematics, as well as the development of common assessments based on those standards,” added Talbert, former General Counsel of the Department.

Through its Race to the Top Assessment Program, the authors explain how the Department has awarded $362 million to consortia to develop common assessments and measure student achievement.  Two consortia have won a total of $330 million, and each has been awarded an additional $15.9 million supplemental grant to “help” states move to common standards and assessments.

“There is no constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national assessments, or national curricula,” said Bill Evers, research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and Koret Task Force on K-12 Education member. “;The two testing consortia funded by the U.S. Department of Education have already expanded their activities well beyond the limits of the law. As this paper recommends, the actions of the Department warrant congressional hearings.”;

One of the consortia has stated directly that it intends to use these federal funds to support curriculum materials and that it expects to use the money to create a “model curriculum” and instructional materials “aligned with the CCSS” pushed by the Race to the Top Fund.  Secretary Arne Duncan has said that the work of the two consortia includes “developing curriculum frameworks” and “instructional modules.”

“Frankly, this makes sense,” said Eitel.  “How can one design assessments without taking into account what is taught?  But the legal concern is that these federally funded assessments will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary course content across the nation,” Eitel added.  “This raises a fundamental question of whether the Department is exceeding its statutory boundaries,” Talbert said.

“Proponents of national standards, curriculum and tests claim they’re merely a logical extension of previous federal education initiatives,”said Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios.  “The key difference is that prior to Race to the Top and the recently announced federal waivers, the US Department of Education abided by statutes explicitly prohibiting federal direction, supervision, or control of curricula or instruction.”;

The authors also explore how the Department’s NCLB conditional waiver program, announced last September, is driving the states toward a national K-12 curriculum and course content.   To obtain a waiver from the Department, each state must declare whether it has “adopted college- and career-ready standards” in reading/language arts and mathematics “that are common to a significant number of States.”  States seeking waivers must also declare whether they are participating “in one of two State consortia that received a grant under the Race to the Top competition.”  The Common Core State Standards and the assessments consortia are effectively the only ones that fit these descriptions.

“Our greatest concern arises from the Department’s decision to cement the use of the Common Core State Standards and assessment consortia through conditional waivers,” said Eitel.  “The waiver authority granted by Congress in No Child Left Behind does not permit the Secretary to gut NCLB wholesale and impose these conditions,” added Talbert. “As shown by the eleven states that have already applied for waivers, most states will accept the Common Core State Standards and the assessment conditions in order to get waivers,” Talbert stated.

States need not apply for waivers, the authors said, but most states are desperate enough to escape No Child Left Behind to agree to the conditions.  “And once a state receives a waiver, escapes NCLB’s strict accountability requirements, and makes the heavy investments required by the standards, that state will do whatever it takes to keep its coveted waiver,” said Eitel.  In the view of the authors, these efforts will necessarily result in a de facto national curriculum and instructional materials effectively supervised, directed, or controlled by the Department through the NCLB waiver process.

In their analysis, Eitel and Talbert propose several recommendations, including the enactment of legislation clarifying that the Department cannot impose conditions under its waiver authority, as well as congressional hearings on Race to the Top and waivers to ascertain the Department’s compliance with federal law.

Pioneer Institute led a campaign in 2010 to oppose the adoption of national standards, producing a four-part series reviewing evolving drafts.The reports compared them with existing Massachusetts and California standards, and found that the federal versions contained weaker content in both ELA and math. The reports, listed below, were authored by curriculum experts R. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University; Sandra Stotsky, former Massachusetts Board of Education member and University of ArkansasProfessor; and Ze’ev Wurman, a Silicon Valley executive who helped develop California’s education standards and assessments.