Editor's Note: Decoding the Truth About Common Core was written by Ruth Sundeen, published by The Old Schoolhouse(R) magazine, and is used with permission.
They are asked to solve a math problem in ten steps instead of three; and they are asked how they “feel” about a math problem that involves no calculations.
Another homeschool mom had just asked me: “Do you know anything about Common Core?” I responded again: “No, not really.” Finally, I’d had enough. It was time to do my own research so I could give my support group and my friends some answers about Common Core. Common Core is in the public schools, Catholic parochial schools, and promises to walk in the front door of our homeschooling families—unless we as homeschooling parents wake up and get informed and involved.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS), according to their website ( www.corestandards.org/what-parents-should-know) are a set of “clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and the English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade. The standards were drafted by experts and teachers across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training…new standards also provide a way for teachers to measure student progress throughout the school year….” This would all be great, if it were true. As parents, we know firsthand what we want in a good education for our children, but what the government means and what most parents mean are two different things, so let’s begin by looking at the six standards listed on the Common Core website and decode Common Core (CC).
CC is internationally benchmarked. (Myth)
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, one of the top English educators in the U.S., and one of only two people on the CCSS committee with a degree in a content area, not education (Dr. James Milgram, math professor, is the other), says that she requested, again and again, the documentation to show that CC was benchmarked, and no one could ever show her any evidence at all that any such thing existed; and she insists that she was persistent. (Check out her YouTube conferences.)
CC is rigorous. (Myth)
We, as parents, think rigorous means to present challenging material at a high level, ahead of what young people would get in an average school; in other words, they’re pressed harder and challenged more than the average student; “elite,” if you will. CC equates “sounds complicated” with “rigor.” Instead of presenting students with foundational math concepts, they are asked to solve a math problem in ten steps instead of three; and they are asked how they “feel” about a math problem that involves no calculations. Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Milgram subsequently resigned from the CC standards committee because the English and Math standards were so low that they refused to sign off on them. Both are now traveling around the country enlightening parents about CCSS.
CCSS are research and evidence based. (Myth)
Bill Gates, himself, in an hour-long interview at Harvard University in 2013, said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”1 There is no research; there are only promises, figments of CC advocates’ wild-eyed imaginations. If there’s no research, there is no evidence. Conversely, there is research that shows the harm CC is doing to our students,2 but none to support anything but good intentions. It is reported that students taught with CC get higher scores on standardized tests, but when you look, you find that the “research” was funded by organizations set to profit by the adoption of CC. I just finished my teacher certification courses and found many of the pro-CC articles were either directly or indirectly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, strong financial backers of CC. When you see education software that is supposed to really improve your child’s learning, check to see who is producing and marketing the material; there are too many to list here. Do your homework and follow the money. If not backed by long-term reliable research from a reputable source, stick to traditional methods of education that have proven successful.
Aligned with college and career expectations. (Myth)
What is a college education today? Google search, “lowering standards in education” and you’ll find many articles on the qualifications of incoming college freshmen, including an article by Marc Tucker (edweek.org, 2015), who says, “the first two years of college add virtually no value at all, and not much value for the rest.” This sentiment is echoed by many other researchers, bloggers and college professors. What do colleges really expect to “turn out” at graduation? There’s enough research to show that college expectations and parental expectations are diametrically opposed. We know many college graduates today are finding it difficult to find a job after they graduate, but they still have college loans. Business research shows that we don’t need more doctors, nurses, technicians, lawyers, and scientists as much as we need people to run cash registers in low income professions, so the level of education of our young people has been lowered so that they are incapable of functioning as a well-educated citizen. Educated individuals tend to question things instead of blindly following.
Built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards. (Myth)
Many states who initially used CC in their school systems have now rejected it because it was inferior to what they already had in their own school systems. We already had one of the best educational systems in the world until CC came along. Alexis de Tocqueville, in his book Democracy in America, commented on the high educational level of all the Americans he encountered. In 2012, Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld reported that up to 60 million Americans—one third of the adult population—cannot read their local newspaper”3 and that was six years ago.
Informed by other top-performing countries to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society.
Many of the countries who “appear” to be more academically successful than the US are socialistic or dictatorial in nature (Finland, China, Vietnam, Germany, Russia)4. In fact, the US public school system was patterned after the German Prussian militaristic, dictatorial model of education, used to “train school children in obedience to the state.”5
Common Core is state led. (Myth)
Why is this important? Because the US Constitution expressly forbids federal involvement in education. Of course, this law was originally broken in the 1970s when the US Department of Education was created. When Race to the Top funds were offered by the federal government, states were told that those funds would be withheld unless they adopted all of CCSS. This is illegal, but it worked, and 46 states signed on in order to get the funds. Several states have subsequently opted out of CC due to the low standards, but currently, nearly every public school and, according to the National Catholic Register (January, 2016), “about 100 out of 195 dioceses and archdioceses have chosen to adopt these standards.”6 And since a federal lobbying group holds the copyright to CC materials, teachers are not allowed to be flexible, but must teach every word as written.
I found it very disturbing that not one time, in all six elements of CCSS presented on the CC website, does it mention students learning as one of the goals of CCSS.
As a homeschooling mom, I know the financial sacrifices it takes to home educate our children and how tempting it is to take advantage of the “free” laptops and textbooks available in the public school’s virtual schools; or using public school textbooks because they’re so cheap; or contemplate sending our children to private Christian schools who, due to insufficient funding, are using “free” public school textbooks.
We must remember that these are our children. John Taylor Gatto says it is unbelievable that parents are willing to turn their children over to strangers for eight hours a day to teach them material that you often disagree with.7 Having taught over 700 students in my home, I can tell you I had parents that I never met because their children came “with a friend.” That parent did not know me, but trusted me. And if you’re using an online curriculum, you don’t know anything about these teachers, but you trust the curriculum provider. CC is creeping into our homeschooling curricula, and digital media is one of the main vehicles for getting it into the minds of our children. We need to be more diligent; we are our children’s first line of defense. We must do our own research; don’t just listen to our friends, do what everyone else is doing, or put our heads in the sand and ignore the danger signals.
Did you see the phrase “to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training?”8 What do you think the word “common” in Common Core means? It means every student will be taught the same thing on the same day in every school across the country; this means all subjects will be taught to the lowest level. When Dr. Sandra Stotsky was questioning Jason Zimba, lead writer of CCSS math, he admits “CC math is not meant to prepare your child for college math and is not rigorous … not made for STEM.”9 What parent wants this for their child?
Students are also subjected to high-stakes, high pressure testing all year long. Some schools report taking as many as 6-8 weeks just for CC test preparation. And who do you think is grading these high-stakes tests? Test providers actually advertise on Craigslist for people to grade your child’s test and they are instructed to “see” more of one score than another each year, thereby invalidating the results of the test, but gathering a tremendous amount of personal information on your child and your family (by now you’ve heard of data mining).10
If you thought this was just for elementary and high schools, David Coleman, one of the main architects of CCSS, has a new job: he’s now President of the College Boards and is in charge of all the high school AP courses and the college entrance tests that will now have to conform to CCSS. What are his credentials? He has none; he has no educational training, yet he’s writing the standards that every teacher in the US must follow in order to keep their jobs.11
As if this wasn’t enough, given the fact that newly-graduated teachers from most public universities are trained in CC (since CC is in most public and private Catholic schools, and the course I recently finished for teacher certification required us to write all assignments using CC state standards), I think it’s safe to assume that they will bring this background and training into the Christian schools and homeschool co-ops. Additionally, I’ve personally seen CC standards-based textbooks in Christian schools, “because public school textbooks are free.”
I want to make it clear that I am not being critical of the teachers themselves. Many of them are being forced to teach CCSS or lose their jobs. And many of them see what it’s doing to their students and resort to subterfuge, and actually teach their students properly when no one is looking. Dr. Peg Luksik has this advice for teachers: “If you are a teacher in a classroom, stay as long as you can stand it; they can fire you. Protect the children in your care as long as you can, which is hard … close the door and protect as many students as you can.” She also tells parents of children who want to go to college to prepare to be teachers (and who will be required to teach CC): “Shop for a good, clean, noncompliant (non-CC-compliant) college. If you’re supposed to be a teacher, you really need to be one.”12
What can we do about all of this? Dr. Duke Pesta says, “Even if we, right now, in earnest, start to pull this out and everybody in the country joins with us, it’s going to take 20 years to get rid of it, if we start now. Can you wait twenty years to give your kids a good education?”13
“If you’ve got your kids in the public schools, you’re going to lose them … there are no safe schools. A poll done about a year ago: ‘88% of American parents agree that the public school system is broken … only 19% think their school is broken.’ My schools are fine; that can’t be true. Figure out a way to put them in safe private schools, because 50%-60% of all the private schools have gone Common Core … or homeschool them. I don’t know any other way.”14
He then encourages us, as parents, to get involved, saying, “If even 10% of America’s moms and dads (32 million) demanded real education, you’d get it tomorrow.”15
- The Washington Post, Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/27/bill-gates-it-would-be-great-if-our-education-stuff-worked-but/?utm_term=.fccd336a6bd9.
- Dr. Megan Koschnick: CC is developmentally inappropriate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tSQlJE6VuA&t=780s). Clinical social worker, Mary Calamia: http://www.eastendbeacon.com/preaching-civil-disobedience-on-the-common-core/, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxH1rJxR4gA
- www.policestateusa.com, “The Origins of the American Public Education System: Horace Mann and the Prussian Model of Obedience” ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZp7eVJNJuw), or John Gatto Prussian Education ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_CeWip5BpU)
- Includes the largest archdioceses in the country that represent the majority of Catholic schools:http://www.educationviews.org/happening-common-core-catholic-schools/
- John Taylor Gatto – State Controlled Consciousness, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ogCc8ObiwQ
- Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, 2013, “Pearson criticized for finding test essay scorers on Craigslist” retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/16/pearson-criticized-for-finding-test-essay-scorers-on-craigslist/?utm_term=.69712a57c49f
- Dr. Duke Pesta’s video [Duke Pesta on Common Core – Six Years Later: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyRr6nBEnz4]; andhttps://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/the-schoolmaster/309091/
- Peg Luksik, Idaho Common Core SBAC Tests and the Truth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoD6-1L-go8&t=5785s
- Duke Pesta on Common Core – Six Years Later: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyRr6nBEnz4
Blumenfeld, S. (2012). What is functional illiteracy? The New American.Retrieved from https://www.thenewamerican.com/reviews/opinion/item/13860-what-is-functional-
Brown, D. (2009). John Gatto – Prussian Education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_CeWip5BpU
Calamia, M. (2013). Suffolk Forum - Mary Calamia, LCSW, CASAC. New York State Assembly,
Minority Education Committee, Forum on Common Core & Race to the Top. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCaXTNcNJRI
Calamia, M. (2014). Preaching Civil Disobedience on the Common Core. East End Beacon. Retrieved from http://www.eastendbeacon.com/preaching-civil-disobedience-on-the-common-core/
Common Core Standards Initiative (2015). What Parents Should Know. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/what-parents-should-know/
Goldstein, D. (2012). The Schoolmaster (David Coleman). The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/the-schoolmaster/309091/
Hays, C. (2016). What’s happening with Common Core in Catholic schools? National Catholic Register. Retrieved from http://www.educationviews.org/happening-common-core-catholic-schools/
Jackson, A. & Kiersz, A. (2016). The latest ranking of top countries in math, reading, and science is out – and the US didn’t crack the top 10. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/pisa-worldwide-ranking-of-math-science-reading-skills-2016-12
Koschnick, M. (2013). Common Core is developmentally inappropriate. American Principles Project. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tSQlJE6VuA&t=780s
Lopez, S. (2010). American’s Views of Public Schools Still Far Worse than Parents’. Gallup Poll. Retrieved from http://news.gallup.com/poll/142658/americans-views-public-schools-far-worse-parents.aspx
Luksik, P. (2015). Peg Luksik – Idaho Common Core SBAC Tests and the Truth. Idahoans for Local Education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoD6-1L-go8&t=5789s
NoTo CommonCore (2013). Jason Zimba interacts with Dr. Sandra Stotsky. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJZY4mh2rt8
Pesta, D. (2016). Duke Pesta on Common Core – Six Years Later. Costa Mesa Brief. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyRr6nBEnz4&t=2s
Police State USA (2013). The origins of the American public education system: Horace Mann & the Prussian Model of Obedience. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZp7eVJNJuw
Rhee, M. (2013). Top Ten Scariest People in Education ReformCommon Core – Education Without Representation. Retrieved from https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/top-ten-scariest-people-in-education-reform/
Safvio (2007). John Taylor Gatto – State Controlled Consciousness. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ogCc8ObiwQ&t=5s
Strauss, V. (2013). It would be great if our education stuff worked, but… The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/27/bill-gates-it-would-be-great-if-our-education-stuff-worked-but/?utm_term=.fccd336a6bd9
Strauss, V. (2013). Pearson criticized for finding test essay scorers on Craigslist. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/16/pearson-criticized-for-finding-test-essay-scorers-on-craigslist/?utm_term=.58db941e947a
Stotsky, S. (2015). Imposters, Charlatans and Mountebanks developed Common Core. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VPKQ7G2pJY [Re: David Coleman – no qualifications.]
Walker, J. (2015). David Coleman, you will teach to the test. 2011 IFL Lauren Resnick introduction. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZvyYfp0Mh4 [Re: David Coleman – no qualifications.]
Ruth Sundeen has a B.S. degree in Biology. She home-educated her two children for 18 years, including other students for high school science classes, including biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy and physiology. She has also taught high school science in private Christian schools for the past three years, and recently completed the requirements for teacher certification with ACSI. She is passionate about teaching science from a special creation standpoint, helping students develop a love of science, a strong grasp of the scientific evidence to support special creation, and the conviction that they can make a difference in the world we live in. She and her husband, Larry, live in Abita Springs, Louisiana. She is also a teacher at SchoolhouseTeachers.com.