So let's not think about the irony of the fact that the one issue he cited that I disagree with is the one I could write more than a page about . . . maybe I have a lot to learn and I'm easily excitable at the idea of anything remotely different than the average subversive political agenda. But still, why DOES Donald Trump hate the Common Core? WHY? He didn't say. He just cited the worn 26th world rank statistic, asserted that education needed to be local, and moved on. I would have welcomed the enlightenment, because as it were, he seems less than informed about this particular issue . . . but maybe it's me. . . maybe I know nothing more about education than I do about foreign policy or healthcare or elections . . . Except that I think maybe I do . . . So let me give you some pretty educated opinions and a few facts.
- Fact . . . and a good dose of opinion: The common core, which is really just a more stringent, specific, and narrowed set of standards for reading and math, IS local. Just because some people got together and decided that there needs to be a common set of standards and benchmarks at the national level doesn't change that education is legislated at the state and local level (check the Constitution . . . nothing there). If the decision is made to adopt the Common Core at the state level, districts still have autonomy on how and what they use to meet the objectives. It's actually a good idea. Think about it. Just because Donald Trump repeated a number doesn't mean it's not accurate. . . 26 as a nation is bad. . . 26 needs reform.
- Fact: Forty-three of the fifty states have adopted Common Core. From the beginning, Texas and Alaska opted out. Five other states reversed their original decisions to adopt the CC: Virginia, Nebraska, Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. It IS optional.
- Fact . . . and some firsthand experiential knowledge: Even school districts within states that have opted out of the CC statewide can adopt the standards. Fairbanks, Alaska did. There is autonomy at the local, as well as state level. As a matter of fact, there is an inherent autonomy within individual schools as to how any individual objectives or benchmarks might be met. More on that later. . .
- Fiction . . . sort of: There are rumors about kick backs from the federal government if states participated in CC that would denote an subversive attempt to centralize control of education at the national level. That was actually a program called Race to the Top that involved a competition between states where points . . . and funding . . . were awarded for increased state scores. Of course, adoption of the CC for participating states was sort of a prerequisite and it all became a very convoluted issue, which caused Indiana to opt out. But, really, would we honestly expect the feds not to try. They've been doing this with Title I programs for years . . . more on that later.
So maybe the latter was the catalyst for Trump's brief tirade against Common Core. Part of the Republican agenda is to decentralize government, and it's not a stretch to imagine that any educational initiative at the federal level would be met with resistance. But there are more rumors . . . I wonder if Donald Trump has heard them . . . the ones about the actual curriculum within the Common Core having hidden agendas and inappropriate content . . .
If I had a nickel for every bazaarly offensive or ridiculous math problem or test item I've seen featured on social media that represents what our children are exposed to in the Common Core, I would have . . . well . . . way too many nickels. Johnny's has two mommies and they both give him three apples . . . how many apples does he have? Leroy sells two dime bags of marijuana on the corner for three weeks in a row excluding Sunday, how much money did he make? REALLY? And we BELIEVE this? WHERE do people come up with these things? So let me clear this up, as well.
Common Core (as well as previous standards) provides a set of grade level standards for what students should know foundationally and from year to year. In order to accommodate and support these standards, districts create supplemental resources. These are in addition to textbooks and are things like graphic organizers, content questions, and extension activities like projects, technology, and worksheets. Currently, Oakland County has provided Oakland Scope that has been utilized by local school Michigan school districts (look it up;). So just to be clear, Common Core is a set of fixed standards, not to be confused with supplemental curriculum created to support it. So the original premise is already ridiculous. But just for the sake of argument, let's consider the supplemental resources part of the Common Core . . .
I was an educator not so very long ago. I still maintain my connection and speak to a lot of educators. I have never, not once in thirteen years, come across a question like that. I have, on the other hand, engaged in a process called item analysis where teachers analyze data and often isolate single questions that are problematic. They're not likely to miss a question like that. Nor would a good teacher in the screening of her materials. In addition, teachers actually create their own curriculum resources from time to time (that's allowed;). Although I have never personally come across such bazaarly objectionable content, I suppose some looney teacher somewhere has committed just such a reprehensible offense, and I'm equally sure they've been appropriately reprimanded. We may see it on the 6:00 news from time to time. People, in general, make bad choices sometimes . . . even teachers. And let's say that somehow something objectionable does slip in at the Common Core resource level; I don't personally know any teachers that wouldn't hesitate to screen something that might be harmful to their students. Eliminating single questions or screening resources for the most appropriate choices does not in any way violate any code of teaching ethics that I know of, and is actually the responsible thing to do.
So the idea that Common Core might be a left wing agenda to take over the minds of our children or lead to government dictatorship seems a ridiculous notion. If Donald Trump has a better idea for creating a paradigm of knowledge that will give the American educational system a more competitive edge, I can't wait to hear it . . . when he becomes president. Oh, and he might want to carry a handkerchief for his next speech. I'm just saying . . .