Nationalizing Public Schools

Public education in the United States is broken.

American children spend less time in class covering fewer topics with less depth than children in many other nations.

American students are consistently outperformed by students from other nations in math and science, according to both the PISA and TIMMS assessments.  American companies no longer look in America to find the best and brightest engineers and math minds.  Fewer and fewer Americans are obtaining degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM).

American student literacy rates don’t even rank among the top 20 nations according to PISA. The US ranks 17th in adult literacy rates. According to the Fordham Foundation, “two-thirds of US children attend schools in states with mediocre standards, or worse.”

Yet, despite being routinely stomped by students from other countries on international assessments like the TIMMS and the PISA, student performance on state assessments and on The National Report Card show remarkable progress.

Public education in America is broken and failing our children.

If you were President and you were in a position to change that, what would you do? Would you convene a panel of the best and brightest minds in the nation to draft standards of academic quality each state should strive to achieve? Would you ensure that the identities of those on the panel and their qualifications were known to the public, that the panel’s deliberations were taped and open to the public so that citizens could express their concerns before any recommendations were set? Would you encourage states to consider incorporating the panel’s recommendations into their state academic standards?

Or would you launch an initiative to draft national academic standards, refuse to disclose the identities of those involved in the initiative and their qualifications, ensure that the deliberations of those involved were classified, and then make federal funding for public schools hinge on whether the states adopt the standards the initiative develops? Would you then extend the initiative’s efforts beyond merely drafting academic standards to include developing national assessments and allocate $350 million in federal funds to support the assessments development effort ?

Which approach do you think the US is following now?

On June 1st the Common Core Initiative was announced. It’s goal – to draft national academic standards which states could “voluntarily” adopt if they want to continue to receive federal funding for public education. The names and qualifications of those involved in drafting these so called “voluntary” standards are being kept secret. The first set of standards developed as a result of this initiative are set to be released on July 9th and the second batch is due several months later.

There are those who say that in the school’s, content is king. Once the Common Core Initiative has completed it’s work, that content will be dictated and controlled by the federal government. Textbook publishers will develop instructional materials which meet the federal standards and state’s will be allowed to select from the federally approved programs if they want to receive federal funding for their public schools. Student performance and accomplishments will be gauged based on the federal assessment.

Our public schools will be nationalized.

You may think that that’s not such a bad thing, considering the relatively poor job the states are doing at teaching our nation’s children. That those developing the standards must be wise and gifted in their respective fields. Thus far only one name has been leaked. The individual is supposed to be leading the effort to draft mathematics standards and he’s an English Major.

Why does the fact that that the person charged with drafting math standards for every public school in the United States is an English major, and not a mathematician, make me sick to my stomach? How am I supposed to believe in and take comfort in what the Common Core Initiative will be mandating for my children and for every child enrolled in public school in the United States when they conduct their work in secret and when the only person rumored to be affiliated with the math Initiative isn’t a mathematician?

Unfortunately there’s very little we can do to stop the federal government from nationalizing our public schools.

But we can demand, from our elected officials and leaders of the Common Core Initiative, that they stop operating in secrecy, that the names and qualifications of those involved in drafting the standards be released to the public for vetting now, that transcripts of the initiatives past deliberations be open for public review, and that future deliberations be open to the public. We need to demand that mathematicians be included in writing math standards, that Chemists be involved in writing Chemistry standards, that Revolutionary War Historians be involved in writing Revolutionary War standards.

Here is a link to the leadership team in the organization leading the effort to draft national academic standards.