Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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National “Common Core” Standards

Unless the electorate awakes in 2012 from its Obama induced coma, it won’t be The Affordable Health Care Act that will be remembered for putting the nation on the road to serfdom, but the Washington hijacking of education. While Americans have been preoccupied with recession, unemployment, congressional peccadilloes, and foreign and natural disasters, cash hungry states, 43 at last count, quietly sold our children’s birthright of freedom to the national government. (The term “federal government” is no longer accurate because the structure built by the Founders is now unrecognizable.)

Never mind that the Constitution reserves education to the states. The Obama administration got around that inconvenience by tying federal funds to state approval of the so-called Common Core Standards. To obtain the money, the majority of states went along with, what can only be described as, an end run around the Constitution.

As Bill Evers, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Policy under President George W. Bush, et all, explains on The Hill’s Congress Blog,

The new national curriculum is designed to complement a federally-funded national testing system that will test every public school student in America. Left unchallenged, this federal effort will establish for America a new system of national tests, national academic content standards, and a national curriculum.

Tyrants have always known that their longevity depends upon controlling the minds of the next generation. Bureaucrats know it, too.

Evers provides a relevant citation from Joseph Califano, President Carter’s Health, Education and Welfare Secretary: “Any set of test questions that the federal government prescribed should surely be suspect as a first step toward a national curriculum. … [Carried to its full extent,] national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.”

The teacher unions, and assorted education interest groups are solidly behind a national curriculum. It has the great advantage of providing one-stop shopping. It will be so much easier to work their will in Washington than to contend with state boards of education, legislatures and district governing boards.

The nationalized curriculum and matching testing system is being marketed as the solution to weak state standards, lousy SAT scores and a failed public education system. Thus, does the cover of the AFT publication, American Educator, advertize the contents of the Spring Issue: “How a Common Core Curriculum can make our education system run like clockwork.”

Heaven knows there is a great deal wrong with public education, some of which is reiterated in the magazine. We learn, for example, in Marilyn Jager Adams’ lead article, that researchers who analyzed the difficulty of 800 elementary, middle, and high school books published between 1919 and 1991 found them significantly less difficult.

Books for 8th graders from 1963 onward were as simple as books for fifth graders before 1963. Difficulty levels for eleventh grade textbooks in history, literature, composition, and grammar were reduced to between ninth and tenth grade levels. Literature texts required for 12th grade English classes after 1963 were simpler than the wording of 7th grade texts published prior to 1963. Schoolbooks for students in grades 4 and above were especially simplified after 1962.

Textbook publishers sell what the education market will buy. The schools needed easier books because the first battle in the “reading wars” had been lost to college of education “experts.” But that’s another story.

What all this means is that when your darling child brings home A’s, don’t assume what was learned is what should have been learned.

It gets worse. Much of the research into textbooks was initiated in 1977 as a result of the 15-year decline in SAT scores. Looking for a cause, the College Board also examined the tests, thinking they had become more difficult. The tests were easier. Although demographic changes in the population of test takers accounted for about a third of the decline in the 1960s, by the 1970s the test taking population stabilized, yet the decline continued, steeper than before.

According to Adams, SAT scores, although no longer in free fall, have not caught up to where they were 50 years ago, and show little indication of doing so.

She points out, the scores that declined the most were those of the strongest students, those in the top 10 percent of their class.

This amounts to poisoning our seed corn. These are the engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs of the future. Or not.

The rationale for national standards is that they will cure a failed system, “make it run like clockwork.” But kids aren’t gears and in a large, diverse country like America, one size does not fit all. The assumption that uniform means better requires a gigantic leap of faith not supported by experience, political realities, or by the content of the standards.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s testimony before the Texas Legislature summed up the case against turning education over to Washington.

States adopting Common Core’s standards will damage the academic integrity of both their post-secondary institutions and their high schools precisely because Common Core’s standards do not strengthen the high school curriculum and cannot reduce the current amount of post-secondary remedial coursework in a legitimate way. Their standards may lead to reduced enrollment in advanced high school courses and to weakened post-secondary coursework because Common Core’s “college readiness” English Language Arts standards are designed to enable a large number of high school students to be declared “college ready” and to enroll in post-secondary institutions that will have to place them in credit-bearing courses. These institutions will then likely be under pressure from the USDE to retain these students in order to increase college graduation rates.“*

Remember the New Math debacle, whole language, and the Clinton era history standards that leaned so far to the left that Congress buried them? Now imagine imposing such pedagogic nightmares nationwide, enforced with a matching test system.

Fortunately, not everyone has been drinking the national standards Kool Aide. In May of 2011, more than 100 education leaders—professors, policy leaders, public policy heads, former Members of Congress, and others—released a paper opposing Washington’s unprecedented overreach into what is taught in local schools. The document states, in part,

Transferring power to Washington, D.C., will only further subordinate educational decisions to political imperatives. All presidential administrations—present and future, Democratic and Republican—are subject to political pressure. Centralized control in the U.S. Department of Education would upset the system of checks and balances between different levels of government, creating greater opportunities for special interests to use their national political leverage to distort policy. Our decentralized fifty-state system provides some limitations on special-interest power, ensuring that other voices can be heard, that wrongheaded reforms don’t harm children in every state, and that reforms that effectively serve children’s needs can find space to grow and succeed.

Finally, the most promising educational reforms have not been top down; they are bottom up. In many states parents are now free to choose the schools their children attend. Charter schools are organized to offer a more challenging curriculum or meet particular needs. Parent councils within the public system demand that districts become more responsive to their education concerns and districts comply because they know that parents can take their children and their tax dollars and go elsewhere. Competition, choice, and innovation are challenging the status quo. It’s called freedom and it can be lost.

* It should be noted that Dr. Stotsky was part of the standards development process, which she found disturbingly “non-transparent.” She refused to sign off on the document.


1 Grumpy { 06.10.11 at 10:04 am }

Good piece Marcia, Bob Mack said I’d like this article, he was right.

The problem is it’s something not many people are seeing…. Obama/Ducan are making true believer out of one group of people.. Jeb Bush is using his influence on another..

One of the bloggers I work wit has an entire website dedicated to the problems with Obama’s proposeded education reform…

I sent her a link, so I suspect she’ll be dropping by..

Keep up the good work


2 Sandra { 06.10.11 at 11:20 am }

A new website was launched a few days ago, Truth in American Education (TAE) at:
It is a resource for all the information regarding current initiatives in one location and written so it is understandable for non-educators. Source documents that support what you explain in your blog are found at TAE.
Democracy is not easy. It’s messy and noisy; and that’s part of its perfection. I stand with the parents.


Marcia Reply:

I am glad to know about your website and will inform others who are similarly concerned. You might be interested in an earlier piece I wrote entitled “The Sucker List” on the same subject. Thanks for commenting.


3 Bob Mack { 06.10.11 at 5:00 pm }

Feeding kids socialist ideology and skewed history for 12 years? I think not. Great post.


4 Grumpy { 06.10.11 at 6:52 pm }

Agreed Bob.. Obama would abuse that king of authority in ways people can’t imagine?


5 Jeff Edelman { 06.11.11 at 10:25 pm }

Speaking of education, allow me to start with a fundamental fact. America is a Republic; not a Democracy. Americans need to grasp this and cling to it jealously and proudly. The Founding Fathers knew that democracies were ephemeral. In regards to education, the fix is in. We’ve got the fox guarding the henhouse. It behooves colleges to have ignorant people attending them. The longer they have to “teach” you the more money they make. I read 20 years ago that a college degree then was equivalent to a high school degree in 1950. Diluted degrees means one has to take more courses to get more letters attached to your degree. Time is money to the college. Speaking of education, think socialist hate money?


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8 Educator { 07.11.11 at 7:51 pm }

Though you highlight some important points from Marilyn Jager Adams’ article, “Advancing Our Students’ Language and Literacy,” your post reveals you are not well-informed about the Common Core State Standards Initiative (by the way, Dr. Adams is also involved in the development of CCSS). You might want to learn about the history of CCSS, the intention behind the initiative, and perhaps read the standards themselves for a more well-rounded perspective. You seem quick to attack and view them negatively. However, you clearly don’t have an in-depth knowledge of what they are. You might also want to read up on some of the state standards that exited before Common Core. You’ll likely find that Common Core State Standards are very similar (since they were derived from existing state standards). Educate yourself before casting your stones.


9 Marcia { 07.11.11 at 10:25 pm }

I am aware of Adams’ involvement in CCSS. She is a partisan. You miss the point of my objections. Please read my essay entitled “The Sucker List,” on this blog. Stotsky also was involved with CCSS and withdrew for the reasons she states above, and because of the lack of transparency in the process. To believe that they will result in educational improvement is to ignore history and political reality.


10 Shaunna { 03.23.12 at 1:46 pm }

Marcia, Thank you for this article. Are you aware of a group that is working to stop the implementation of Common Core Standards? Do you know a way that a person might voice his/her opinion in regards to this issue? ~ Shaunna


11 Marcia { 03.23.12 at 6:13 pm }

The only organized national group I know of can be found at
Some states appear to have opposition groups as well. I googled opposition to common core and found in Alabama. You might google for groups in your state. I wish more people were aware of what is happening. Best of luck.


12 Susan { 05.11.13 at 4:19 pm }

Before you throw too large a bone toward charter schools and parent choice, please look more deeply into the reality of charters. (1) Many charter schools have been run aground by poor management of resources; (2) so-called rigorous curriculum yields no improvements in test scores over neighborhood public schools; (3) charter schools do not serve the same student population as public schools, yet you hold them in comparison as though they do.

Finally, the Common Core standards are merely standards, a list of skills and knowledge. They are not a curriculum, nor do they dictate the content of the coursework beyond a set of skills, such as this example from the 8th grade writing standards: “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.” Clearly, according to this standard, any 8th grader will be able to produce a website, such as this one, and entertain comments.


Martin Reply:

I’m sure Marcia will wish to answer this, as she has over 40 years of experience researching and studying education in the United States. However, I can add, from personal experience, that while charter schools, like public schools are a mixed bag – some good and some bad, having a choice is certainly better than not having one.

In Arizona, there is a huge charter school movement and it has resulted in an improvement in education overall for the state – not only for the students who attend them – but because the funding follows the student – it has caused the districts in which these schools are to compete by improving their own curriculum. Case in point, in Mesa and Gilbert several “traditional” schools have opened, which by all accounts are trouncing their non-traditional brethren.

There is no substitute for doing your homework when researching the right school for your kid. I have sent all of my children through charter schools. In one case, what worked well for my daughters did not work for my son. Unfortunately, the so-called “gifted” program at the public school was even worse and less challenging.

However, when my son reached middle school age, we put him in a different charter where he has excelled.

These are not subjective judgements. The high school where my children go has consistently higher scores on SATs, ACTs and has achieved an impressive collection of scholarships for its students. For example, in a graduating class of 67 this year, there were 7 National Merit Scholars. That is a rate of over 10%. Compare this with a large public high school in the area with hundreds of graduates, which boasted 5, itself a good achievement. This public school is considered among the “A+” public schools by the Arizona Department of Education. Keep in mind that about 1% of the nation’s seniors can qualify for this award.

Education is like any other protected industry. While there are certainly lots of good teachers, there are tons of bad ones too, and they are unionized, government employees that it’s nearly impossible to fire. (You’ve surely read of the rubber rooms in NY and NJ?)

The common core standards will be used as a stick with which to beat states that accept federal money. The education establishment hates the charter schools, because they provide competition and shine a light on how badly the government has screwed up our school system.


13 Marcia { 05.13.13 at 1:21 pm }

I cannot improve on Martin’s response to your comment. A couple of points will suffice.

The great thing about charters is that if they perform poorly they will fail financially. That accountability is absent in public education. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that centrally run bureaucracies don’t work in education and enlarging them won’t make them better. All of which brings up the topic of the Common Core Standards.

Common Core was never field-tested which means that it is a typical education reform: no research base and horrendously expensive. But this one is imposed on all of the 45 states so desperate for money that they accepted the federal largess without worrying about the federal strings. And there are always federal strings. Eventually, the states will have little if any control over curriculum. Even worse, parents will have even less say about the education of their children. The ultimate influence will be the tests (and cut scores) developed by private testing consortia, funded by the US Department of Education. Their grant applications say that they would use the money to create curriculum models for the nation.

Another controversial aspect of Common Core is the requirement that states join the Statewide Longitudinal Data System. These systems will aggregate massive amounts of personal data to track students from preschool to workforce entry. The fact that the Obama administration, by regulatory means, has altered the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to make that data available to third parties is a real concern.

Finally, education reform is best accomplished through charter schools. The successful ones, such as Martin described, are models for failing public schools. By the way, charter schools do not recruit and select “the best” students. When enrollment requests exceed the number of seats, they are required by law to hold a public lottery to determine who will attend. Charter schools do not engage in selective admissions. Many urban charter schools serve large numbers of low-achieving students who succeed after the public system failed them.
And in Arizona, they do so with less funding than public schools.


14 Silas News { 12.07.15 at 7:45 pm }

It appears you haven’t read the Common Core State Standards. I encourage you to read them as part of your writing. They are available here and here


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