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Common Core Standards Mock Local Control of Education

by Maureen Bader, Amy Edmonds

Wyoming is a great place: full of caring and dedicated parents; committed, well-educated and experienced teachers; strong communities; and a strong tradition of local control over education. We have the skills and expertise to develop an excellent educational system, including standards setting and curricula development. This means we should reject the latest federal education fad and jettison the Common Core so-called standards and testing systems from Wyoming.

Common Core Standards (CCS) will not magically conjure up the skills we need to sustain our way of life in Wyoming.  CCS are a set of federally created national standards and assessments that might be good for testing companies but received little if any input from the Wyoming governor at the time.

Yes, we want children to come out of school knowing how to read and write, think and be prepared for a future of their choice, but a one-size-fits all federal scheme developed by education special interests won’t achieve that.

Standards have been a part of the national education debate since the early ‘90s when the standards-setting movement first took hold. Since then, states have been pushing themselves to comply with federal diktats regarding standard setting and testing. This is undermining local – specifically parental – control over the education system.

The problem isn’t standards per se. After all, standard setting has been part of Wyoming’s educational portfolio for a very long time. Although Wyoming has had very broad and general standard-making authority in its statutes since the turn of the previous century, standards have never been the foundation of excellence in education. Excellence comes from the personality and character of our teachers, parents, children and local communities.

Indeed, there is no good data to support the benefit of national uniform standards.  According to Neal McCluskey, author of Feds in the Classroom: How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples and Compromises American Education, countries with both national, regional and no centralized standards and tests at all scored higher than equivalent U.S. students. In other words, no data links high test scores to a centralized education system.

With No Child Left Behind, Common Core’s predecessor, states set standards, tested based on those standard, all the while promising higher test scores. The results?  Test scores remained flat. What has gone up, however, is education spending, which nearly doubled in the past decade, Wyoming included.

Don’t expect Common Core to raise test scores either. In fact, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, while served on the committee created to validate the Common Core standards, and the only English Language Arts content expert on that committee, said the people gathered to create the standards were not qualified to do so. She refused to sign off on the Common Core standards.

Now, like a creeping vine, Common Core standards twist and tighten around local curricula, narrowing the control held by Wyoming’s local communities and parents. Without a doubt, as testing comes online under the new Wyoming Accountability Act, we will see even more prescriptive teaching to master these tests with less and less local ability to make changes in the classroom.

The people of Wyoming, like those in states such as Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Florida, are reaching for the pause button. Florida, for example, has pulled out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two federally funded testing consortiums created to assess the Common Core State Standards. Now that the standards themselves have been fully unpacked and parents are seeing a radically new curriculum emerge states are taking time to reconsider the Common Core Standards and its testing.

Wanting standards that guide teachers to create excellence in their classrooms is a worthy goal, and Wyoming can achieve it without rushing to sign onto the latest shiny new educational toy. 

The past two decades of the standards movement has shown us that federal standard setting and testing has fulfilled none of its initial promises. It has, however, created higher government spending and more federal and state government meddling in local education to the detriment of our local schools, our parents and our children.

It’s time to judge policies and programs by their results rather than their intentions. It’s time to reject the federally entangled Common Core. Finally, it’s time for a return to the Wyoming tradition of strong local control.

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