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Common Core Standards: Improvement in Academic K-12 Standards or Just Big Government Control? Part 1


Pioneer Institute


By Bill Korach


Common Core K-12 Standards have been adopted by 45 states. Only Alaska, Virginia, Minnesota, Kansas and Texas have not accepted the Common Core. The Common Core was supposed to provide a set of academic standards so schools could better measure and track the performance of their students. However, the Common Core has come under increasing attack in recent months from both grass roots groups and scholars. The Report Card will present both sides of the argument in a 2-part series. Today’s story is about a report by the non-partisan Pioneer Institute entitled: “Why Common Core is bad for America.” The full report can be obtained directly from the Pioneer Institute.

Pioneer Institute has been a staunch advocate for district and school accountability, high-quality academic content, and content-based student and teacher assessments that align with the state’s nation-leading academic standards.

Nationally, Pioneer has led the campaign against federal control of K-12 education policy through the Common Core initiative. Pioneer has published a series of research papers showing that the state’s adoption of national standards weakens the quality of academic content in Massachusetts’ classrooms, and raising serious questions about the legality and the costs of Common Core.

The Pioneer Report cites five reasons why the Common Core is bad for America:

“From the beginning, the Common Core State Standards Initiative has described the Standards in glowing termsThe discussion below demonstrates that the other claims are doubtful as well, and that any state evaluating the Standards in the cold light of day should consider the following problems: (1) quality and content of the Standards; (2) legality of the federal promotion of the Standards and assessments, and the usurpation of state autonomy; (3) governance of the Standards; (4) fiscal cost to the states;

and (5) student and family privacy rights.”

1. The Common Core Standards Are of Mediocre Quality and Rest on Questionable Philosophies

The Common Core Standards are of mediocre academic quality. Even Common Core proponents have conceded that the Standards are clearly inferior to those of several states and no better than those of about a dozen states.39 More objective analysts have concluded that in both English language arts (ELA) and mathematics, the Common Core Standards are deficient. Moreover, both the ELA and the math standards rest on questionable philosophies………..Dr. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas, a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee who refused to sign off on the Standards, criticizes the ELA standards as “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.

University English professors are beginning to recognize and express concern about the educational philosophy represented by the Common Core ELA standards.48 Dr. Anthony Esolen of Providence College, for example, has urged one state legislature to reject Common Core’s attempts to diminish our children’s literary heritage:


[W]hat appalls me most about the [Common Core] standards . . . is the cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form. It is a sheer ignorance of the life of the imagination. We are not programming machines. We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory- like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women. . . . Frankly, I do not wish to be governed by people whose minds and hearts have been stunted by a strictly utilitarian miseducation. . . . Do not train them to become apparatchiks in a vast political and economic system, but raise them to be human beings, honoring what is good and right, cherishing what is beautiful, and pledging themselves to their families, their communities, their churches, and their country.49

2. The Common Core Standards/Race to the Top Effort Violates Three Federal Statutes and Eliminates State

Federal law lays down broad prohibitions on Department involvement in curricula decisions. The General Education Provisions Act     prohibits         the         Department         from “exercis[ing] any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel” of any school, or “the selection of . . . textbooks, or other . . . instructional materials” used in any school.64 Similar prohibitions exist in the Department of Education Organization Act65 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).66

Common Core is the vehicle by which the federal government is evading these prohibitions. As described above, the Department has herded the states into adopting Common Core by dangling before them Race to the Top funding while denying them the opportunity to review the Standards before signing on. As the Pioneer report notes:

Standards drive curriculum, programs of instruction, and the selection of instructional materials. A change to common K-12 standards will inevitably result in changes in curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials to align with the standards. This is critical to understanding the importance of the road the Department has taken.

3. The Common Core Standards Scheme Requires a Governance System that Will Further Impair State and Parental Right

Looking ahead, the states face a difficult battle to prevent further erosion of their sovereignty and their abilities to guard the interests of their citizens. The Common Core Initiative, coupled with the federal effort to drive its adoption, has brought about national content standards owned by the private interests that created them – not by any state and not by the federal government.82 The result is that significant portions of the states’ educational systems now rest in the hands of private organizations that an individual state cannot control. And, having stripped the people of effective political power and put it in the hands of private interests, the owners of the Standards attempt to insulate themselves from legal liability to the people with broad disclaimers for any damage the Standards might cause.

4. States and Their Taxpayers Will Incur Substantial Costs to Implement the Common Core

In a commissioned study, AccountabilityWorks estimated that the total additional costs (one-time costs plus seven-year implementation costs) to state taxpayers will amount to $15.8 billion.101 That estimate includes the following new expenses for the states: $1.2 billion for participation in the new assessments, $5.3 billion for professional development, $2.5 billion for textbooks and instructional materials, and $6.9 billion for technology infrastructure and support.

5. The Common Core Standards System Intrudes on Student and Family Privacy

A particularly troubling component of the Common Core Initiative is its connection to the collection and dissemination of personal student data. Analysis of this issue reveals how Common Core is merely one part of a much broader plan by the federal government to track individuals from birth through their participation in the workforce.

Progressive educators and bureaucrats, such as those currently in control in the Department of Education, have long advocated sweeping national control over education as a means of matching the citizenry to the workforce needs of industry. One prominent progressive reformist, Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy, described this view in a now-famous letter to Hillary Clinton shortly after the 1992 election. Tucker promoted what is, to conservatives, a dystopia of authoritarian control: “remold[ing] of the entire American system for human resource development . . . – a seamless system of unending skill development that begins in the home with the very young and continues through school, postsecondary education and the workplace.”108

Pioneer Institute makes a strong case against the Common Core Standards. It is strongly recommended those interested should review the full Pioneer Institute report. Part 2 of The Report Card story about Common Core will be a defense of the Common Core by Excellence in Education, the non-partisan educational organization founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.


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One Response to “Common Core Standards: Improvement in Academic K-12 Standards or Just Big Government Control? Part 1”

  1. Kate McCormack, Esq. says:

    Dear Pioneer Institute: Thank you for your report on the Common Core. I am an attorney and a licensed English Teacher. I had been working on contract in a fairly large regional public school in Massachusetts that is beginning to unroll the Common Core. As such, I can tell you, I have grave concerns about the legality of the program as a whole and question the teaching and testing methodologies behind it. Voicing concerns about it, however, rendered me persona non grata. As such, while there are many teachers who are also concerned and disagree with the approach, they are unwilling to say anything for fear of losing their jobs…and clearly that seems to be a real fear which is “chilling” in and of itself. The fact that silence has been bought spells trouble for our society. To this end, I am further troubled by the National Council on Foreign Relations report regarding the Common Core which tags teachers with the National Security Readiness of all students. You should read this report as this will give you the essence of what the Common Core is really all about. Therein, an “expanded” Common Core is recommended. The Common Core being unveiled now is just phase I. This report shows that the Common Core’s focus is to ultimately give broad access to all personal data to the “intelligence communities.” It also transfers ultimate authority over “whether, what and how the teachers are teaching” to the Department of Defense. In other words, the Department of Defense has come up with a clever budgetary,line-item “cost-shift” for training its personnel. While some might argue that the National Council on Foreign Relations is just an independent body and is only advocating that extreme position, most of the players behind the report are integrally involved in the Common Core in terms of being the heads of the testing agencies, computer companies,etc. There is a significant degree of financial benefit, as well, to those entities as a result of the Common Core. In fact, a student who comes up with a new programming idea may arguably be, unbeknownst to that student, be automatically forwarding that information to such computer programming companies without his knowledge yielding a significant advantage to the corporations behind the Common Core. Personally, the Common Core smacks of, well,fraud; fraud on a very grand scale.


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