Why I Don’t Heart Common Core

If you aren’t familiar with Common Core by now then there’s not much I can do to help you. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but it’s dead and the activity can be fantastic for relieving stress. Now that I’ve thought about it I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided to beat a dead horse.

There are several problems I tend to encounter when discussing Common Core with others. I’m not going to dive too deep here, but I’d like to hit the major points I’ve considered regarding Common Core. I would love to know what you think.

First, I don’t care about Common Core math. There! I’ve said it. This seems to be what most most people think about when Common Core is mentioned. They talk about the crazy math that kids are being forced to do. I think the math is strange, too. I don’t always understand it and sometimes I have to go online to learn how to do things so I can help my kids. That said, the homework almost always says something like “Use the trade-first or any other method you want to solve these problems.” If you’re child connects with one method over another then they are always free to use a different method. My child really connects with the “lattice method” when solving multiplication problems. He will do math all day long and he gets the right answer every time. So who cares? You can even force your kids to learn your math methods and then have them complete the homework your way (as long as they show the work). Common Core math is weird. I don’t think it’s the easiest method. But I really don’t care. To focus on the math is to miss opportunities to discuss much bigger problems with Common Core.

So, what are the bigger problems? There are many, but I’ll touch on a few that bother me the most.

First, I don’t like a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Common Core is about treating all children as if they were the same. My own children have been left in the classroom with nothing to do while the teacher tries to help students who are struggling. This might not be directly related to Common Core, but I’ve heard a lot of other parents complain of the same thing since Common Core stepped onto the stage. It’s more about getting everyone to the minimum than about helping every child achieve their own maximum potential. This means smarter kids might spend a lot of classroom time just sitting at a desk reading a book. Not terrible, but they can do that at home.

Another big problem is the testing. Your government paid $350 million to develop tests for Common Core assessment. Were the old tests so bad that we needed to spend $350 million for new ones? Can our government afford to spend $350 million to develop tests? (Hint: No, it cannot.) And that was just to develop the tests. States still need to pay per child, per test. Can the states afford this? No, not really. Do you know what the purpose is of the test? Here’s the kicker: to get federal funding. That’s it. Test results are not received until well into the next school year, which makes the results useless in regards to helping your child progress. Yet, the tests are mandatory! Why? Because your state’s funding is affected if you don’t have at least a 95% participation rate in testing. The solution was obvious to Nevada lawmakers: make it “illegal” to not take the test. Your child is being sold by the state to the federal government to get funding. (Funding your government cannot afford to provide, mind you.)

Funding. That’s all this is about. Governor Sandoval wants to tax businesses more to pay for education. He insists that all the people of Nevada need to pay more for education. We’ve whored our state out to get federal funding by clinging to Common Core. No matter how much money is collected for education it’s never enough. The state keeps collecting but who knows where the money goes? The school my children go to is over capacity by nearly 3 times. Their playground is full of portable classrooms. Nearby schools have similar challenges. There doesn’t appear to be any effort to build new schools (at least not anytime soon). So, Sandoval punishes everyone in the name of education and we stay at the bottom. Kind of makes you think it’s not actually about education at all.

When you talk Common Core with people they generally will not have a problem with any of these points. The one that causes trouble is the dreaded data mining. Unfortunately, as soon as you say those two words people tend to tune out. What is data mining? Have you ever been searching for something online and then you realize that every website you go to has ads for those things you were searching for? It’s because your computer is building a profile about you to be used for marketing. It knows what pages you go to, what products you’ve been researching and then websites create a customized ad campaign to get you to buy those things.

This is very similar to what our school are doing to our kids. Nevada received $10 million in grant money (code for “paid for with your tax dollars”) to build a “longitudinal database”. This is basically just a system used to track information about kids in school. What kind of information would they need to track? The obvious answer would be test results and grades. I’m pretty sure that if this is all they were tracking they could do it for a lot less money. This database is actually designed to track test scores, grades AND information like religion and family income. And several hundred more data points. Many points are fairly innocuous, but there are a lot of questions about these databases. I guess it helps the government to figure how who is smarter between Catholics/Buddhists, hispanics/asians, boys/girls/other. But for what? It’s not necessary in order for my child to get a good education. Is the information being sold then? Does it go in a permanent file that follows children into adult life and forever after? I don’t think children should be treated like a product.

Of course, the biggest and brightest red flag is federal control of education. This is probably the easiest argument to make against Common Core. First, it’s argued that Common Core is not a federal curriculum. The problem is that the testing is federal, which means that teachers must teach to the test in order to get their students to pass. Which means it’s a federal curriculum. So, what’s the problem with having a federal baseline that states are required to meet? Pop quiz! Name something the federal government does well. Don’t worry, this is not a timed test. Healthcare? Postal service? Money management? Taxation? Border security? FDA? EPA? NSA? There are a couple things we could probably debate, but for the most part the federal government makes a disaster out of everything it touches. Do you really want these same people in charge of the education of your children?

There are more things I’ve thought a lot about, but many of these things tend to get clumped in the “conspiracy theory” category. They may be completely true; however, I think we’ve got a big enough fight with the things we’ve mentioned that we can put these other things on the back burner (for now, at least).

Unfortunately for you, I’ve got at least one more Common Core post in me. There’s good news, though. Once I’m done whining about Common Core it will be time to start with the 2016 election season. Yay.