Common Core ‘nail in coffin’ of local education

There are several misleading statements in state Rep. Jerry Stern’s recent op-ed on this page regarding the Common Core education standards which I feel compelled to address, as I have been studying this issue for the better part of a year.

1. Apparently the State Dept. of Education has changed the name of the standards to the “Pa Core” instead of “Pa Common Core.” The name was the only thing that changed.

While our department was telling us that we are not doing the national standards, it was telling the U.S. Department of Education that we are doing the national standards (CCSS). On Page 9 of its February 2013 request to the U.S. Department of Education for ESEA flexibility the State Department wrote that its “alignment of PA Common Core to the CCSS is well documented.”

On that same page of the federal application, the Department wrote, “The reading and writing standards (6-12) for history and science mirror the CCSS.”

They then provided a link to PA’s education website to prove these two statements. We can call a pig a princess, but it is still a pig.

2. “The standards are applicable only to public schools.” This is, at best, wishful thinking. In May 2013, the Washington Times reported that the GED is being revamped to be Common Core compliant. The Washington Post and Education Week have reported that the SAT and ACT tests are being redesigned to bring them into alignment with Common Core.

In Section B, Page 14 of Pennsylvania’s own Race to the Top grant application, the State Department of Education says that it will work to have our postsecondary institutions make the Keystone Exams, which will be aligned to Common Core, the college placement exams for our students. When college entrance and placement is connected to Common Core, then all students are affected, no matter where they attend school.

3. “There will be no national tests or assessments.” Our state assessments must be approved by the Federal Dept. of Education. In order to be approved, they must be aligned with the national Common Core.

4. “Expanded data collection will not occur due to implementation of the standards.” We committed to collecting data on our children from pre-K through the workforce prior to the implementation of Common Core, and accepted federal dollars to do so.

5. “Curriculum will remain strictly a local decision by our school boards.” That is not what the State Department of Education is telling the federal government. When Pennsylvania defended its Race to the Top grant application to the U.S. Department of Education, the state’s representative talked about PA’s online curriculum. She said, “the SAS portal, which is our standards, our model curricula, that is available to school districts, but everybody has got to teach to our standards – that’s required. And everybody has got to implement our high school end-of-course exams. And that is required. So in order for them to successfully get to their high school exams, which will be aligned to the Common Core, they are going to need to access all that stuff. Our experience is that when we have made mandatory things available, pretty much everybody is using them.”

Do not be fooled. The Common Core is the nail in the coffin to local control of education. And it is most disappointing that Rep. Stern has not looked behind the bureaucracy’s curtain of marketing rhetoric and learn the facts.

Lois Kaneshiki

Pennsylvanians Against Common Core