Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad addresses the Iowa Teachers & Administrators Leadership Symposium held on 8/4/14. Photo credit: Iowa Department of Education (Public Domain)
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad addresses the Iowa Teachers & Administrators Leadership Symposium held on 8/4/14.
Photo credit: Iowa Department of Education (Public Domain)
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad addresses the Iowa Teachers & Administrators Leadership Symposium held on 8/4/14. Photo credit: Iowa Department of Education (Public Domain)
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has allowed the Common Core to be implemented.
Photo credit: Iowa Department of Education (Public Domain)

At first glance the concept of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) makes a lot of sense. Supporters of the CCSS would argue that a student in 6th grade in Vermont should be able to transfer to 6th grade in California and be able to pick up right where they left off at their old school. Who can argue with that? Uniform standards across the United States sounds like a WIN-WIN scenario!

You may first think, “I don’t have kids, why should I care?” But this will affect everyone from business owners to future leaders.

One of the major arguments against CCSS is about the standards not being research based. The groups that worked on CCSS argue that these standards are based on research, but Bill Gates has gone on the record as stating that it will be ten years before we have enough research to know if these standards are working.

Bill Gates also stated that “identifying common standards is just the starting point. We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards.” All school administrators claim that these are standards and not curriculum, but if the largest private donor to this effort is telling us that we won’t know if this is successful until the tests and curriculum are aligned it seems the schools don’t have much choice but to choose a curriculum that matches with the standards and assessments. I think this is a huge gamble to take with my children’s education!

The CCSS is not all that it is cracked up to be. When you take standards that apply to everyone, you naturally have to lower them to apply to everyone. An article from the Des Moines Register speaks to the lack of rigor of the CCSS:

James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, determined that the CCSS mathematics standards leave American students two grade levels behind their peers internationally by the time they reach seventh grade. He also found that they don’t prepare students for admission into highly selective universities and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs.

The English standards are also suspect. Sandra Stotsky, professor of education reform emeritus at the University of Arkansas, argues that CCSS’s ‘diminished emphasis on literature in the secondary grades makes it unlikely that American students will study a meaningful range of culturally and historically significant literary works before graduation.’

Another big issue for parents is the loss of student and family privacy. In order for states to qualify for Stimulus Bill funding, the federal Department of Education requires the individual states to build expensive databases to track student data and progress. This database is to include the following information:

[E]ducational data, test scores, homework completion, extracurricular activity, health care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status, political affiliations, religious affiliation, housing information, bus information, telephone information, family government assistance information, personality traits, work techniques and effort etc., over 400 data points in all.

Now in Iowa you don’t hear the standards referred to as the CCSS ― they are the “Iowa Core.” As the development of the Iowa Core was under way, the development of the CCSS was also going on. In the summer of 2010, the Iowa Board of Education voted to merge the Iowa Core with the CCSS in exchange for the ability to apply for federal incentive money! By approving these standards, the Iowa Board of Education agreed to fully implement them by the 2014-2015 school year.

The Iowa Core has its own faults, but at least it was passed by the Iowa General Assembly and signed into law by former Governor Chet Culver. This is not the case with the CCSS being rolled into the Iowa Core. The Iowa State Board of Education just voted to roll the standards in with the Iowa Core. If the state is agreeing to a national standard then I really think that is something that the Iowa General Assembly should decide. The fact is we have laws that prevent the federal Department of Education from “directing, supervising, or controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials.” Yet, this is exactly what these standards do!

Originally 45 states and Washington, D.C., had adopted the CCSS. Since then, Oklahoma, Indiana, and South Carolina have withdrawn from the CCSS. We have to ask our elected officials to call for a review of the CCSS in the Iowa Core. The Iowa Legislature needs to review them and decide if we want that much intrusion from the federal Department of Education.

This is about doing what is right for our children. Being a parent and learning that it will be ten years before we know if these standards and curriculum are working is too chancy for me. My oldest daughter is in 5th grade and in ten years she will be done with school. So in ten years to learn this whole thing may not have worked is NOT acceptable. The policymakers are gambling with my child’s education and every other child currently in the educational system! Therefore it is imperative that parents, grandparents, business owners, educators, and taxpayers call for the review of the CCSS that were enfolded into the Iowa Core! We need an educated workforce and in ten years we don’t want to find out we have less of an educated workforce than we did today! Being college and career ready is what this is supposed to be all about!

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