Wyoming Liberty Group
Sandy Shanor speaks on the Common Core
(Today we are thrilled to welcome a guest blogger, Sandy Shanor. Sandy is a longtime Cheyenne resident and vice chairman of the Laramie County School District #1 Board of Trustees. She has over 40 years of experience as a parent, teacher, administrator, consultant and board member.)
Throughout my 40 years in education, I have seen a lot of experiments, trends, and fads come and go. Some garnered short-lived attention, others bandwagoning, and some gained permanency.
However, none of them compare to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Common Core”) movement in terms of questions raised, ideological fervor engendered, and the sheer amount of policy territory that has been engulfed by these new standards.
There are two distinct issues: the standards and the Common Core movement as a whole. The standards are an area in need of improvement, but the movement is of serious concern for those of us that desire to preserve control over the education of our youth. Let me explain:
While serving as a trustee for Laramie County School District No. 1, I began to familiarize myself with the Common Core. The more I learned the more my skepticism grew.
What are the Common Core standards and from where did they come?
The Common Core are standards for English language arts and math developed by the Gates Foundation, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. In 2012, the Wyoming State Board of Education adopted the Common Core, in its entirety.
Standards are the benchmarks set for students’ knowledge and skills. A comparison of prior Wyoming standards and the new Common Core standards does not expose much in terms of radical change. Some of the Common Core standards could be considered more rigorous while others, less so. But a narrow discussion comparing the standards is not the real issue. As I stated above, at its heart, the Common Core movement is a campaign for control over the system of public education in America.
Are these standards truly the best option for Wyoming or are they cause for concern?
You will hear Common Core proponents espouse the notion that “standards are just standards” and “local districts still have control over curriculum and pedagogy.” They omit that local school districts must ultimately align their curriculum to the Common Core standards in order to meet the benchmarks. Therein lies the problem. By the federal government tying Race to the Top education funding to the adoption of the Common Core, we see the beginning of a slippery slope.
A vast amount of public education funding in Wyoming is federal. If that funding is going to be tied to the adoption of off-the-shelf national standards, then our state must refuse the federal dollars or adopt the national standards. Turning away federal dollars would demand a drastic overhaul in state budgeting and adopting national standards results in giving up control of our state’s education goals. As the federally imposed standards evolve to be more restrictive, our local control over curriculum also fades away.
The Common Core standards are so new they can only be classified as experimental. Even Bill Gates, a founder and promoter of the Common Core, said in a recent Washington Post interview that meeting the Common Core standards is not sufficient for his children: “I expect my kids to know a superset of the Common Core standards at every single grade involved. I expect them to have the reading skills, uhh, uh, above what the reading and writing skills are in the Common Core standards. So, absolutely. I don’t see who, who would not want that.”
So, if they are not rigorous enough for the Gates children, are they rigorous enough for Wyoming’s children? Many states are saying no by revoking their adoptions of Common Core!
Additionally, education professionals are asking for a moratorium on teacher evaluations because the implementation and assessment of these standards have not been comprehensively assessed. The American Federation of Teachers has a petition directed at the board of directors of Pearson PLC, a British publisher, to allow input from teachers and remove the contractual gag orders on teachers who are administering related tests. Pearson PLC is one of the major investors in the Common Core movement and partner of the Gates Foundation.
I want to emphasize that despite the Common Core having been adopted in Wyoming it can be revoked and we should make all efforts to prevent federal standards covering other subjects from being adopted. But, of most immediate importance, we still have a voice in education and without delay we should be 1) prodding our school districts to place proposed classroom textbooks out for convenient review, 2) engaging at PTO meetings, and 3) mindful of our school boards’ actions. The education of our children is too important not to!