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On Common Core Standards

Wendi Peters
Candidate for District 4 State Delegate

"One size fits all" may work for rain slickers, wrist watches or even baseball hats, but do we really want a "one size fits all" approach to education? More importantly, is that really best for the education of our children and the future of our State and our country?

By now, even if you do not have children in the school system, you have probably heard about the new Common Core State Standards Initiatives (Common Core). Common Core is a set of national curriculum standards for Math and English developed by academics and assessment experts in coordination with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The Federal government jumped in quickly offering unprecedented funding incentives for states to sign on and relinquish local control of their education choices.

Although drafting had not been completed, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) rushed to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2010. (This sounds eerily similar to: "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it." We are now seeing the disastrous results of the hastily considered reform of the health care system.) In return, Maryland received $250 million in Race to the Top federal grant funds. You may recall Race to the Top; it is a $4 billion-plus federal program of unproven reforms which have been widely criticized by teachers’ unions, educators and parents alike.

While some laud the rigors of Common Core and the idea that Common Core promotes critical thinking at an earlier age, there is absolutely no evidence that Common Core will improve the academic outcomes for our children. The standards discount that every student is unique and prevent teachers from actually teaching to the individual. In addition, what we are seeing is that the standards are no more rigorous; they are just different from the No Child Left Behind standards and in many cases developmentally inappropriate. For example, Common Core requires that special education students be taught chronologically - not developmentally - disregarding individual learning abilities and differences in special education.

Computer-based testing for Common Core was developed by the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), but has not been fully implemented. There will be some classes in each of our Frederick County Public Schools in which the PARCC assessment will be "field tested". The majority of our students, however, will undergo the old Maryland State Assessments (MSAs).

Failing to have our children take the MSAs may cost the State $280 million in federal funds and could result in fines imposed by the U.S. Department of Education for noncompliance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (another federal program controlling our education decisions through funding incentives). We are teaching one curriculum and testing for another, leaving one to question whether we are really doing the best we can to ensure all of our children have the opportunity to achieve academic excellence or are we just checking off the right boxes and going through the motions to fill our coffers with federal funds?

The President of the Maryland State Education Association, Betty Weller, called implementation of Common Core a "train wreck." She was among many parents and teachers recently in Annapolis asking the legislature for fixes to the many problems that have plagued implementation in our State. The push to repeal Common Core standards altogether in Maryland is growing. Unfortunately, there are some legislators who answer the call for repeal, or at least for fixes to the many problems, by responding that "it is too late." For those of us who believe in limited government and individual liberty, it is never "too late."

In short, Common Core is nothing more than a program to further centralize control of the education of our children implemented through the coercive threat of losing federal funding. And despite that initial funding, state taxpayers will undoubtedly be left paying the ever-increasing costs of implementation. This "one size fits all" approach to education is a costly challenge to local control and educational freedom in our classrooms. I support the full repeal. Education reform should focus on collaborative efforts of teachers, parents and leaders in our communities – not assessment experts and standardized testing companies. The foundations of such reform should place emphasis on parents, schools and teachers having the freedom, resources and training to meet the individual needs of each student. Charting the path to excellence in education should be a local prerogative.
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