Last year, millions of American schoolchildren began learning a very different lesson plan than previous years as the Common Core State Standards began taking effect in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The political actors behind Common Core describe their initiative as a “state-led effort” to implement uniform curricula in K-12 schools across the country. But make no mistake about it, Common Core amounts to a federal mandate, with Washington offering states enticements like No Child Left Behind waivers and Race to the Top grants to adopt the standards and begin implementing database collections that invite student privacy concerns. Like most other federal mandates, Common Core looks like it will be just as ineffective by taking control away from local educators and raising school costs. The Georgia General Assembly must act in order to avoid this loss of local control.
Common Core repeats the same failed strategy of raising academic standards that Washington has tried for decades. The federal government has a long history of mismanaging education, having required states to raise their academic standards at least five times over the last two decades to little success. Bill Clinton’s Goals 2000, George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top all asked states to raise their standards, but with no significant improvements in student achievement. Although Common Core has slight structural differences from these historical flops, it nevertheless adopts the same underlying strategy of raising academic standards without education reform and is sure to receive the same failing grade.
Common Core adds to the already bloated price of education. Common Core is expected to cost the state governments $15.8 billion to implement in the first seven years alone, at a time when the average price of educating a student is already an incredible $10,000 per year. Schools will have to purchase piles of new textbooks and teachers will have to be taught new pedagogical methods that are compliant with the national standards. Worst of all, many of the costs are completely unnecessary. For example, the standards require students to take assessment tests on computers rather than more cost-effective paper examinations, forcing schools to purchase and maintain expensive new technology.
Student privacy is also a major concern under Common Core. Along with Common Core Standards, Race to the Top and the Stimulus Bill required states to create large databases on public school students, according to American Principles Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. The data points include health histories, family income status, disciplinary histories and more. Funding eligibility for these and other grant programs like Title 1 for low income students is increasingly coming with the pre-requisite that states turn over access to this data for accountability purposes and use in future research projects.
Common Core takes control away from state educators in favor of federal bureaucrats. The overall aim of the standards is to close the achievement gap between states. But, this goal ignores the fact that achievement gaps are wider within states than between them. Such schools in need of improvement are better served by adopting curricula personalized to the needs of their students—flexibility not found in Common Core. But, under Common Core, states and local school districts’ hands will be tied in implementing standards tailored to their local needs.
The Georgia General Assembly must follow a trend underway in states like Delaware, Indiana, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia, by moving to withdraw from Common Core or, at a minimum, remove funding until more is understood about the program and its federal requirements. The commitments were made by other state agencies without Legislative involvement and previous legislative actions to ward off the implementation of the program met with promising support in the Georgia Senate.