Mark Jacobs, a Republican vying for the GOP nomination in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, did an interview with the Tea Party Express on Tuesday.  During the interview they asked him about the Common Core State Standards relating it back to his work with Reaching Higher Iowa.  He indicates that he opposes a federal approach to education, but does not go as far as saying he opposes the Common Core State Standards.

Interviewer: “Let’s talk a little bit about your non-profit organization Reaching Higher Iowa where they provide better education options for families, communities and teachers.  The new Common Core Standards are causing a lot of concern, Mark what is your take on the issue and where are the areas you would rather see our education professionals focus?”

Jacobs: “Well I think… Just to be clear, I’m against the federal government dictating to states what children should learn, and I am against the federal government using the carrot approach through grant dollars and tying grant dollars to states adopting standards that children should learn.  What I am for though, I am for accountability in schools and I am a big supporter of school choice – whether that be public schools, parochial schools, charter schools, homeschooling… I think there is a lot of different ways to accomplish a great education.  I think the ones… I think those decisions should be left to at the local level because I believe parents are in a position to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of their children.”

It’s interesting that they bring up the non-profit group Reaching Higher Iowa when talking with him because this promotional material from the group seems to indicate the opposite.  It says, “If we want to improve student achievement, we must raise our expectations of what we expect children to learn. Iowa has taken an important step in this regard: adoption of the Common Core State Standards and incorporating them into the Iowa Core. The Iowa Core is a rigorous set of standards that has been developed to ensure that our students are college or career ready when they graduate from high school. In a nutshell, they will be ready to compete with those from other states and countries. The Iowa Core will be implemented over the next several years and will provide the challenging academic expectations that our children deserve.”

That doesn’t read like opposing the Common Core to me, and it seems like Jacobs is trying to split hairs on this issue.

Similar to Governor Mike Huckabee who was a supporter of the Common Core later said  he opposes “what Common Core has become” it seems that Mark Jacobs seems to believe that the only problem with the Common Core is the federal involvement.  That’s only one problem of several that those of us who oppose the Common Core.  These would not have been good standards even without the Federal involvement, but the fact is those who designed Common Core – National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve led the way in persuading the Federal government to intervene.

In their December 2008 white paper Benchmarking for Success, NGA, along with its partners CCSSO and Achieve, encouraged the federal government on the eve of the new administration to provide funding to states to, among other things:

  • “[u]pgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12…”
  • “ensure that textbooks, digital media, curricula, and assessments are aligned” to the standards
  • “offer a range of tiered incentives to make the next stage of the journey easier, including increased flexibility in the use of federal funds and in meeting federal educational requirements….”
  • “revise state policies for recruiting, preparing, developing, and supporting teachers and school leaders to reflect the human capital practices of top performing nations and states around the world,” (pg. 5-7, 37).

The whole process was designed to short-circuit proper checks and balances at the state level.

Not to mention the Common Core State Standards just represents data-less reform.  It’s costly to the states.  The math standards will fail to prepare students for STEM.  It’s English Language Arts standards put college readiness at risk.   The Common Core undermines state and local autonomy among other problems.

But yet were to believe that he opposes federal involvement and the “carrot” approach when it was that very approach that brought the Common Core to Iowa which they call “an important step” toward education reform they believed in.

The organization he has founded says that the Common Core and its incorporation into the Iowa Core was “an important step” in raising “our expectations of what we expect children to learn.”  They say that will raise student achievement, but there is really no evidence suggesting that centralizing education around a set of standards will do that.   Parental involvement and good teachers will help with that.  Current reforms don’t address that and in fact, I believe and have heard testimony from teachers that suggests, it will stifle good teachers.  There is already plenty of proof that the Common Core, in particular the math standards, put distance between parents and their children by taking away their ability to help kids through the use of reform math.

Jacobs says he wants accountability.  That sounds great, accountability to whom and how does that jive with making decision at the local level?  How about parents and taxpayers be the ones to hold schools accountable, not bureaucrats in Des Moines and Washington, DC.

He seems like he wants to be on both sides of this issue and you simply can’t be.

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