BY: Rob Chambers
MS Baptist Christian Action Commission
Education is fundamental to the development of a child’s mind. Children are most formative in their in their early years and is why the Bible places so much emphasis on instructing children (Deuteronomy 6:6 and Ephesians 6:4). Based on Scriptural authority Christians have placed a strong emphasis on education through small group study and Sunday school.
Education since pre-modern times has shifted to public school. Also, education has been locally controlled until recently. Families have benefited from legal rights over local control of education. With the implementation of Common Core much has changed. These standards have set forth a radical change in education of what students are expected to learn and when. There are two fundamental problems with Common Core: the surrender of local control and the failed promise of higher standards.
Common Core Standards are controlled and directed from Washington, D.C.
In 2010, with the possibility of federal dollars being dangled in front of it, Mississippi adopted the Common Core State Standards for k-12. Common Core promised to be rigorous, evidence-based, and internationally bench-marked to high performing countries.
At the request of the Mississippi Department of Education, Common Core was approved by Gov. Haley Barbour in the Race to the Top application. Gov. Barbour signed this application that included the Standards that were not even finished. This in turn unconditionally bound Mississippi to Washington, D.C. control and manipulation. Congressional supporters were Congressmen Bennie Thompson and Congressmen Thad Cochran as they signed letters of support of this educational agenda that included the Common Core Standards.
These Standards are owned by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), both in Washington, D.C. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) that will be assessing students under Common Core is also a Washington, D.C. entity. PARCC is also funded and overseen by the federal government. These Washington, D.C. entities are not accountable to the people of Mississippi.
David Coleman, primary author of Common Core said, “The standards are nothing if the assessments built in them are not worthy to teach to. . . . Teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that.” So, if the learning goals are necessarily connected to the assessment, then what connects the two? The curriculum. This federal hand in glove approach to education, over and beyond Mississippi control, drives the curriculum to be “aligned” to Common Core.
Supporters of the Standards say the federal government was not involved in the Common Core initiative. But David Axelrod, President Obama’s former Senior Advisor, said that these standards were “the Common Core Standards which was an initiative of the Obama Administration.” This is a significant admission that Republicans and Democrats are glossing over. They are echoing a message that is all too similar to what Pres. Obama said, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.” In the words of George Will, supporters of Common Core say, “If you like your local control of education, you can keep it. Period.” To which a burgeoning movement is responding: “No. Period.”
Common Core Standards failed its promise.
Gulfport School District was a pilot test school for the implementation of Common Core English, Language, Arts and Math for the 2011-2012 school year.
Figure 1 compares Gulfport District scores from the Subject Area Testing Program (SATP) before and after the implementation of Common Core Standards. Passing the SATP test is required to graduate. If they fail the SATP, they don’t graduate. Scores are lower across the board after the implementation of Common Core. There is a significant drop in the Algebra score from 93.1 to 56.5 and in Biology from 88.6 to 66.0. In the 2012-2013 year there was no SATP testing and as a result the Mississippi Department of Education has placed Gulfport School District on academic probation.
Despite these abysmal test scores, Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison said “I hope we all stick together, because at the end of the day there is a tremendous benefit for the state and for students to raising the achievement level.” The evidence certainly points the other direction, toward the Race to the Bottom.
Why was there no SATP test given in the 2012-2013 year? Did students who failed the SATP in schools from other districts not graduate while those who would have failed at the Gulfport District School passed? How is this fair? Are those who failed held to a higher standard than those from Gulfport District School? These are real problems and is why the MS Department of Education and Education Committee Chairmen Sen. Gray Tollison (Lafayette, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha) and Rep. John Moore (Rankin and Simpson) need to address it.
MS politicians and educators and businesses repeatedly emphasize the need for more high school graduates to be prepared for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies. But the Common Core fails the promise to prepare students for STEM.
President Obama, quoted in the Mississippi Race to the Top application, said “Reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century.” In the section of the application emphasizing STEM it stated, “Equally important is the need to support and promote the STEM majors and careers for the reasons expressed in the President’s statement above—it literally is a matter of national security and Mississippi has the chance to do its part.” So, according to the MS Board of Education, STEM education and careers are a “matter of national security.” But Common Core failed its promise to deliver on STEM.
Common Core Math Standards elaborate on this problem stating that “Research consistently finds that taking mathematics above the Algebra II level highly corresponds to many measures of student success….Of students taking (Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II and no other mathematics courses), only thirteen percent of those students met the benchmark for readiness for college algebra…(Common Core Math only goes up to Algebra II)….STEM-intending students should be strongly encouraged to take Precalculus and Calculus.”
Dr. Zimba, the lead writer of the Common Core Math Standards, has admitted Common Core’s deficiencies in this regard; in defining “college readiness,” Zimba acknowledged that Common Core is “not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges.”
PARCC states that students who graduate under Common Core math standards “must progress well beyond the initial threshold of college and career readiness as defined by the (Common Core) standards” if they “wish to pursue science, technology, engineering or mathematics (S.T.E.M.) majors in college.”
Dr. Bud Peterson, the president of Georgia Tech stated that “for admission to a ‘technology based’ college program, algebra needs to be taught in 8th grade so that the students can have some exposure to calculus before entering college.” Common Core teaches Algebra I in the 9th.
Math standards expert Ze’ev Wurman said “When children are not prepared to take algebra I at the start of eighth grade, they have to accelerate three years of math into two years in order to be prepared for calculus by twelfth grade. As is, the Common Core does not include even pre-calculus expectations. This makes for a significant disadvantage to children from economically disadvantaged communities because they cannot afford the private tutoring and private courses to help them negotiate the accelerated learning.”
So, why are we in the Common Core? Perhaps MS elected leaders and school superintendents signed onto the promise of the Common Core, that few people stopped to study whether the eventual product met that promise…..or perhaps they had painted themselves into a corner, politically-speaking, and now think it would make them look bad to admit the truth.
But the future of our children is at stake. We need politicians of virtue to push for legislative change this session. Education Chairmen Sen. Tollison and Rep. Moore alone have the power to set the agenda in their committee to bring bills up that address Common Core. Also, Lt. Gov. Reeves and House Speaker Gunn also are in positions of great influence. If these bills do not come up in their committee, then it will be because they refused to resolve this. Call Rep. John Moore 601-359-3330 Capitol, 601-591-4100 (W), 601-946-5833 (C) and Sen. Gray Tollison 601-359-2395 Capitol, 662-234-7070, (W). MS Capitol number is 601-359-3770. Tell these Chairmen and your legislators not to hold hostage the opportunity to create higher standards for our children and bring these bills out of committee.
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