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In 2010, the North Carolina State Board of Education unanimously adopted the federal Common Core State Standards in math and English. Common Core is designed, at least in theory, to better prepare students to compete on an international level as well as be ready for college and the workplace.
On paper, the goals of Common Core look pretty good. Looking closely, the sheen disappears.
There is no question that in the last few decades, education in the United States has fallen compared to other industrialized nations. It is a common lament of employers of new graduates that for all the time and money spent on public education, frequently students coming out of the system are woefully unprepared to meet the realities of the business world.
But is Common Core the answer?
Lt. Governor Dan Forest makes several compelling points in a recently released video challenging Common Core.
Although the standards for math and English were implemented this past 2012-13 school year, Forest points out that the state board of education, as well as local school boards, failed to perform due diligence before jumping on board.
Common Core is tied into Race to the Top (RTTT) funds. If school systems want to be able to apply for RTTT, they have to implement Common Core.
However, no one looked at whether or not Common Core was worth it. There have been no cost studies done to see just how expensive implementing the standards will be.
Advocates of Common Core complain that they are simply standards and not a curriculum, so cost shouldn’t be a significant factor.
But, as every parent, student and teacher knows, if success on the Common Core’s tests are going to be the benchmark of whether or not a system is declared good and healthy, then teachers are going to teach to the test.
Essentially, then, Common Core becomes the driver for curriculum.
Already, families are seeing puzzling side effects to implementation — particularly in the troubling lack of things like textbooks.
Students are having to share textbooks or access digital PDFs via the Internet.
That’s great if you have Internet, a high-speed connection, an up-to-date computer and aren’t a typical, highly distractible teenager.
But, live in a rural area, lack funds for computers and monthly Internet fees or have even mild attention challenges, and online texts become a recipe for disaster.
Other states have faced sticker shock when it comes to implementing Common Core. Earlier this year, California discovered that to begin implementing Common Core in the 2014-15 school year, it would need $1.25 billion above its normal budget.
North Carolina already allocates more than 55 percent of the state’s budget to education. And most school systems, Wake and Franklin included, still have to ask parents to donate notebook paper, pencils, tissues, white board markers and the like just so classrooms can function.
Adopting Common Core without knowing the true cost is plainly irresponsible.
The cost of new standards might be easier to accept if they were proven to do what they claim. Unfortunately, in what feels like a Three Stooges plot, there has been no field testing of Common Core standards in the state.
Forest additionally points out that in nearly every industry, the watchword today is customization. Why, then, would we rush toward a one-size-fits-all educational system?
Lastly, there is tremendous data collection that takes place with Common Core. So far, there is no clearly spelled out accountability for that data.
What will be collected, exactly?Who gets to see it? With whom is it shared?
When Common Core was first presented to educators, it seemed like the right prescription for what ailed our schools.
But now that the wrapping has been removed, there’s more than a little buyers’ remorse in the air.