First of all, let’s set the record straight. The Common Core Standards are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. The workplace is very different than it was even ten years ago and teachers today must prepare students for a world of possibilities that may not yet exist. The ability to effectively communicate, collaborate, and adapt to situations will be critical to ensuring we remain competitive in a highly globalized market.[i] Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others are critical to making this happen and will decide how the standards are to be met. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.
Secondly, they were not developed by the Federal government or the current administration, but by the nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The education reform movement began in 1996 when the nation’s governors and corporate leaders founded Achieve, Inc. as a bi-partisan organization to raise academic standards, graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability in all 50 states. This led to the launch of the American Diploma Project (ADP) in 2005, the initial motivation for development of the Common Core Standards.[ii] Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders provided input into the development of the standards.[iii] In fact, our very own Dr. McCallum, head of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Arizona, was a lead author of the Common Core Math Standards.[iv]
There can be no doubt that one of the reasons the United States rose quickly to its super power status is our commitment to providing every citizen a public education. This was a new concept that helped us make the most of our most valuable resource…our people. It is also what helped make the American Dream a reality for so many. Unfortunately, that dream is now no longer a given – studying and working hard no longer guarantee that you’ll be better off than your parents were.
Fear mongering over “the Obama administration federal take-over of education” is simply that, and diverts focus away from the real threats to our public education system. Instead, we should be concerned about the corporate influence in the form of venture philanthropy as opposed to the more traditional philanthropy. The difference of course being that the traditional philanthropists supported the work of others and the venture philanthropists view their giving as entryways into that work. The 1983 report by the Reagan administration, A Nation at Risk, set the stage for the business elite to look at public education as a profit center. The leading venture philanthropies are now pushing charter-school growth, school choice, and education privatization in general; alternative routes of teacher and administrator certification; and curriculum and test development. Unfortunately, all this drives a transition from public deliberation by elected officials to decisions of individuals with no accountability to the public.[v]
Opportunity, that most fundamental American value, is now at risk for so many. It is at risk, not because of some imagined plot to nationalize education, but because we are refusing to deal with the real threats – poverty and a lack of respect for our teaching professionals whom I believe can fix what’s wrong if we’ll just give them what they need and get out of their way. Learn more at www.azed.gov/azcommoncore.