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Chuck Norris: Is Common Core Good For Kids and Teachers? Part 5
Monday, December 09, 2013 8:17 AM

(This is Part 5 in a series on the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Read Part 1Part 2,  Part 3 and Part 4.)

Common Core State Standard, CCSS, advocates love to point out how 45 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted this new national public school regimen. What they’re not telling you, however, is how federal and state funds were used to muscle their adoption or how expert reviews and efficacy shortfalls have prompted political and educational action in at least 17 of those 45 states (more than 33 percent) to restrict or reverse the tides of CCSS rollout, according to a brand new report in the Huffington Post.

In August, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Utah withdrew from the assessment groups designing tests for the CCSS. And in September, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order restricting Florida’s involvement with the CCSS national assessments because of concerns over federal overreach of the program. Congress.org reported, “Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah are all currently considering full withdrawal with other fiscally conservative states sure to follow.”

CCSS advocates also love to point out that the Standards were “created by the nonpartisan Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents the top education officers in each state, and the National Governors Association.” What they’re not telling you, however, is the evidence I’ve detailed in the first four parts of my series about how the feds have been intricately involved in CCSS creation, funding and rollout from the beginning – something they even tried to adamantly deny for years until late.

Again, CCSS advocates love to pontificate that “Teachers are enthusiastic about the implementation of CCSS in their classroom.” But what they don’t tell you, however, is that – for example – a letter drafted to parents and endorsed by more than 530 New York principals shared their grave concern about the soundness of CCSS standardized tests that state education officials were imposing on students in grades three through eight.

They also won’t tell you about a former letter “signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens” that highlight children’s visceral reactions among a dozen strong objections to CCSS testing: “We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up.”

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and author of “Behind the Current: Assessing the Case for National Curriculum Standards,” summarized some of the scholarly objections about CCSS, when he recently wrote in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It may come as a surprise to some that Common Core is opposed by scholars at several leading think tanks on both the right and left, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and my own Cato Institute. My research has shown there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes.

Hoover Institution senior fellow Eric Hanushek, a well-known education economist and supporter of standards-based reform, has reached a similar conclusion about likely Common Core impotence. He recently wrote: “We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact.”

Hanushek’s conclusion dovetails nicely with Common Core opposition from Tom Loveless, a scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution. In 2012, Loveless demonstrated that moving to national standards would have little, if any, positive effect because the performance of states has had very little connection to the rigor or quality of their standards. There is also much greater achievement variation within states than among them.

In fact, Loveless has been one of the clearest voices saying Common Core is not a panacea for America’s education woes, writing: “Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.”

Moving to arguably the far left, prolific education historian Diane Ravitch also has taken on Common Core, noting that it is untested, was assembled behind closed doors and was essentially foisted on schools by the federal Race to the Top funding contest.

Ravitch is also adamant that CCSS’ additional assessments will overload already overburdened students.

Nevertheless, battle-weary U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan continues to contend that there are three primary goals in Common Core: “setting loose the creativity and innovation of educators at the local level, raising the bar for students, strengthening our economy and building a clearer path to the middle class.”

“Setting loose,” like “setting free,” local educators? (Is that also a confession that the feds have tied up teachers’ hands from creativity and innovation?)

If CCSS is really about setting educators free to instruct how they feel is best to help kids reach higher academic heights, then I would imagine the CCSS is an educators’ dream come true, right? Wrong.

Is that why tens of thousands of administrators, educators, politicians and parents across our land continue to decry the validity of CCSS?

Here are a few more examples of what leading educators are saying about CCSS, according to WGGB in Western Mass.:

Tim Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association, fears his city is not ready: “You don’t have enough time for school districts to adjust to the new curriculum to the new standards. You don’t have enough time to give the professional development to the teachers about a new method of teaching. In the city of Springfield, the new test for the Common Core is going to require every child to take the test on a computer. We don’t even have the resources so that can happen.”

Carol Burris is the principal of South Side High School and was also named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She has co-authored the book “Open the Common Cores” as well as the principals’ letter against assessing teachers by student test scores, which was been signed by 1,535 New York principals.  Burris was one of the biggest advocates of Common Cores until it started to morph into something that would measure, control, and cookie-cutter test kids just like previous government education programs.

According to the Washington Post, when Burris turned away from Common Core, she said, “I confess that I was naïve. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted. The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned.”

No wonder another New York teacher sounded off, “[CCSS] doesn’t allow kids to be kids. Their expectations are insane. Robbing kids of their innocence and preparing kindergartners for college is idiotic.”

And if you think the negative voices about CCSS are coming only from the East Coast, consider what a few teachers in California recently told the San Jose Mercury News:

Concerned that science will take a back seat to CCSS’ push to read articles and write responses to them, Christine Smith, who teaches seventh-grade biology at Cabrillo Middle School in Santa Clara, retorted, “I didn’t go to school as a science major to teach kids how to write.”

Maureen Burt, an experienced teacher of history at Mount Pleasant High in San Jose, said even while welcoming change, teachers have grave concerns and “fear a total pendulum swing where students are taught to think but lack knowledge to think effectively.”

And another California teacher who desired to stay anonymous put it this way: “Many of my fellow teachers either do not know or are in denial about where we are headed! Unfortunately, I cannot continue to be the only ‘rebellious’ one; they will simply get rid of me.”

One thing is clear, as education scholars have clearly pointed out: our society’s and children’s academic shortcomings and ills aren’t going to be cured by another national government system.

The feds’ and states’ entanglements in the U.S. public education system have been largely responsible for the facts that today, in just a single generation, one in four young Americans don’t graduate from high school, three out of four young people are ineligible to serve in the military, 90 million American adults possess below-basic or basic reading skills, and the U.S. has gone from No. 1 to No. 12 rank in the world among young people completing their college education.

And we think more of the same is the answer?

As Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

(In the last two segments of this series, I will discuss recommendations from the best of educational experts – including a few from among America’s founders – in proposing a far superior educational system than CCSS.) 

Chuck Norris is the star of more than 20 films and the long-running TV series "Walker, Texas Ranger." His latest book is entitled The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book." Learn more about his life and ministry at his official website, ChuckNorris.com.

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