Jim Clark: Revisiting Common Core | SierraSun.com

Jim Clark: Revisiting Common Core

Jim Clark
Special to the Bonanza

If you want to turn a PTA meeting into a street brawl, just say something, anything, for or against Common Core; within five minutes, you will have the audience at each other’s throats.

This will demonstrate proof positive that there is no good idea under the sun that can’t be screwed up when politicians, educrats and the government get involved.

The original idea harks back to 1996 when the National Governors’ Association (“NGA”) founded a bi-partisan non-profit called Achieve, Inc. to look at raising K-12 academic standards, graduation requirements and accountability in all states.

In 2004, Achieve, Inc. issued a report saying, “high school graduates are not provided with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed at college and careers.”

What to do? The NGA did not want to nationalize curricula so they decided to establish uniform standards against which the academic performance of K-12 students all over America could be measured. The states remained in charge of curricula. They called the standards “Common Core.”

In 2009, the NGA appointed a committee to develop standards for mathematics and literacy for each grade level (enter, stage left, educrats). They also appointed a committee to validate the standards (more educrats).

The standards got written but the validation committee came under some pressure to produce a result by May 2010 because Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (enter, stage right, the government) was asking states to compete for “Race to the Top” funds and wanted widespread adoption of Common Core Standards to be one of the criteria to qualify.

Validation committee members declined to be rushed and in fact some resigned from the endeavor claiming the standards as written were “not internationally benchmarked, research-based or rigorous.”

Meanwhile, the lure of federal dollars for cash-starved state education departments enticed 42 state governors (including Nevada’s) to agree to adopt Common Core. The commitment had to be in the “Race to the Top” application so states were stuck with the program whether or not they got the federal money.

Having been lured by educrats and enticed by the government’s dangling of federal funds applying states adopted Common Core. Then it came time for everyone to look at what they signed up for. Hmmm.

Standards for literacy and math were not validated; even worse, no standards existed for science or social studies. Four states repealed Common Core and an additional nine suspended implementation.

The remaining states (including Nevada) had to revise their curricula to teach what the standards specify that students know. This process took place between 2011 and 2015.

How do we tell if it works? Common Core charters two assessment consortiums: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers (“PARCC”) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”). States can take their choice.

PARCC administered tests last spring in 10 states. The consortium’s mushy scoring system evaluates “expectations”; students score “below,” “nearly meets” or “meets/exceeds.”

As reported in the New York Times, Ohio reported two thirds of its students are proficient in math and English; Massachusetts, a traditionally strong performer, reported only about half its students are proficient; and Illinois reported only one third proficient.

What happened? (Enter, center stage, politically correct politicians) Ohio, California and North Carolina regarded “nearly meets and “meets/exceeds” as proficient. Massachusetts and Illinois only counted “meets or exceeds” as proficient.

Meanwhile in Nevada, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce President Kristen McMillan recently wrote: ”It is essential that we place our support behind Common Core,” while Assemblyman Brent Jones (R Las Vegas) testified in support of his measure to repeal Common Core and replace it with Massachusetts standards: “The convoluted curriculum, when combined with intrusive data mining of personal information about students and parents and a costly unproven testing requirement make repealing Common Core the right move.”

See what I mean? No answers, just opinions.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at tahoesbjc@aol.com.