The origins and purpose of the Common Core State Standard (CCSS) was set in the 1980’s when American students were performing below par, and there was inconsistency in testing standards. The goal was to raise overall performance and create a base for consistent measuring. This was the reasonable basis on which most of the states accepted the CCSS.
So what has gone wrong? In one word, Control. We/they have made some critical errors.
It appears that politics got involved, with a select few applying ideologies that are inconsistent with our Constitution and common values, who have tried to manipulate education into a political platform. The original goals seem to have been forgotten. Centralized control is now ever increasing while individualism and values are at risk. The strategic core of education has been ripped out in favor of a new branded base ‘Brave New Worldish’ conformity. So what could have been the basis for consolidation has ended in failure. The alternative is of course to face the reality and competitiveness of the world as individuals who comprise self-sustaining families, businesses and productive societies. Individuals build wealth, not governments. We have to ‘face the tiger’. (See MEganize)
We are now in a battle of these opposing ideologies. Centralization is not what America is about. Not only does the Federal Law prohibit government from creating national tests and standards, but we are all taught at business school that centralization means bureaucracy, which sucks the spirit and purpose out of everything. From a government perspective we have seen the risks of centralized control, where poor strategic decisions can place the country at risk on many platforms. This is a caveat in our current form of central government, and we have seen the potential over the past decade. We are a Republic. There are sound principles behind that mandate, and we are at risk of ignoring them. Let this CCSS debacle be a warning.
The CCSS/Fed Ed Output
A few states have abandoned the Common Core and public opinion has become vehemently opposed to what has evolved. Whether the Common Core has failed or not, we still have a problem that needs to be addressed. All blame cannot be laid on that doorstep, even though it may be convenient. We still face huge challenges and while many offer criticism, few have come forward with solutions. Some are looking to China, who aced the PISA tests, while the US falls to the middle of the pack (23rd in Science and 30th in Math). What is their model? Should we adopt it? The difference in cultures would suggest not. But they must be doing something right. The answer can’t that hard. Based on the PISA scores, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Ireland and Poland have now moved ahead of the US. Even Vietnam, a poor developing country, now has higher scores in Math and Science than the USA. Astounding!
While we complain about our levels of unemployment, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates 1.2 million unfilled jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by 2018 due to a lack of qualified workers. We are importing skills by the bucket load.
The Real Drivers
Entrenchment is the name of the game in any monopoly. Education has become one of the most rigid and protected industries in our country, while our businesses have led the world in best practices and process. We have a huge disconnect. Perhaps we can learn something from our updated practices, or a gardener…
The Crystal Palace was designed in 1850 (by a gardener) under severe constraints. This was used to house a Great Exhibition of the Works of All Nations. This virtual miracle laid the foundation for Britain’s wealth for the next century. It was used to connect the knowledge of the world under one roof, creating a wave of innovation and cross pollination of ideas that swept through the country. England became the leading patent holder among all nations and held this title well into the 20th century. This ‘spirit’ of course spread to North America, creating its own winning culture of creativity in a land of possibilities. A parable, perhaps?
“Innovation and productivity are driven by intellectual capital. This brings economic growth to the country and increases the welfare of all. This is the engine of a country and virtually ensures prosperity.”(MEganize) We are a country of innovative, enterprising individuals, not low cost production clones like China. We have our own core competence and winning culture that are embodied in our Constitution. Vision and values must drive our structures which frame our culture. However, if our leadership (schools and government) does not embody our core values as defined by our founding fathers, we’re on the road to nowhere. If our leaders do not have a strategic perspective that aligns with our vision and values, we will fail. This is the principle behind the 1st Quadrant of the Strategic Change Cycle. (See MEganize)
‘The principles that unite parents of all ideologies against Fed Ed are bedrock tenets of our constitutional republic: local control, parental sovereignty, privacy protections and fundamental skepticism about the actual educational benefits of massive government expenditures in the name of ‘reform’.” (Michellemalkin.com)
This is our mission critical. Everything else pales in relevance.
When becoming a citizen of the United States you are required to swear an oath of allegiance to this country and its Constitution. This directly implies that you will accept and adopt the core culture of this country. Our Constitution is our Mission Statement that defines who we are and what we stand for, our values and our culture. Those who do not agree with it should certainly not be in a leadership position, and probably not be allowed to live here. This is the same in any organization. If you don’t believe in what we are and how we do it, then you don’t belong here.
The primary goal of the Common Core system was to ensure college readiness.
Our performance against this standard is roughly as follows: (based on published statistics)
- Getting to college. Only 23% of our children end up with bachelor’s degrees. This accounts for the 8% drop-outs at schools, an 80% graduation rate, less the 44% of graduates who do not attend college at all, and the 42% who fail to complete their bachelor’s degree. What happens to the other 77%?
- College readiness. ‘Only 37 percent of students who entered high school in 2006 left four years later adequately prepared for college, with even smaller percentages of minority graduates and those in the largest cities meeting that standard.’ (NYT 2011) ‘Common Core has become part of the corporate reform project now stalking our schools. As schools struggle with these new mandates, we should defend our students, our schools, and ourselves by pushing back against implementation timelines, resisting the stakes and priority attached to the tests, and exposing the truth about the commercial and political interests shaping this false panacea for the problems our schools face. … a central problem with the Common Core is the complete absence of any similar credible plan to provide—or even to determine—the resources necessary to make every student “college and career ready” as defined by the CCSS.’ (rethinkingschools.org)
- What about public opinion?
- Glenn Beck points out details that show how the Common Core is not focused on education but on reframing our children’s minds to fit political agendas. (truthinamericaneducation.com)
- Michelle Malkin exposes many of the pitfalls on her website (MichelleMalkin.com)
- States that originally signed up are abandoning the Common Core. Oklahoma and South Carolina are out, and others are on their way. But beware, the Fed Ed still holds a big stick for conformity over them.
- Marc tucker, who heads the Center for Education and the Economy which for 25 years has been studying the world’s best performing education systems, like the Chinese province of Shanghai and countries like Japan and the Republic of Korea, said: “The current education reform agenda in the United States has not worked.”
- There are a number of teachers and parents in public schools who have taken their children out of the system. This makes it real as ‘schooling’ then costs extra, often with a huge opportunity cost as well.
- What is our ROI in education? Currently the US spends $632 Billion per annum on education, around $12,600 per child per annum. This is the highest spend in the world, while other countries achieve similar/better results for around 75% of this or less. Based on the fact that only 23% of our kids graduate with bachelor’s degrees, the ROI on the stated primary goal is pathetic. The real issue still lies with the rest who are left with little to show in real skills.
Framing it correctly
Outside of the obvious political context in which the Common Core is designed, a key question is whether the prime goal is correctly framed. Framing is an essential part of decision-making, and defines how you approach the solution.
As parents we delegate the responsibility to ‘professionals’ to provide the best education for our children. We spend our lives working and saving in the hope of leaving a legacy for our children. This is primarily achieved by getting them the ‘best education’ in a competitive world. We want our child to succeed. This is a focus in our lives. If less than 25% actually finish college, what happens to the rest? Has the education system provided them with sufficient skills to compete without a college degree? If not, why not?
One of the aspects of a ‘control’ society is the preponderance of laws that hope to replace common values. The problem is that control is an illusion. It is impossible to control one child let alone a class of them. Laws also have to be implemented. The more laws, the less society manages itself, and the need for ‘values’ are perceived as unnecessary. As values decline, standards decline, and the ‘spirit’ of society is lost. This results in a negative cycle that reinforces itself. Laws cannot replace values. If we want our children to succeed, if we want our country to survive, we have to uphold values that are real and proven.
So, based on the above, perhaps the new frame for our children is to ‘educate them for life’, providing them leverage to increase their productivity, make fewer costly mistakes (that values protect), and educate them with real, diverse skills that are particular to their desires and abilities. After 12 years at school they all MUST have SOME core skills that they can use to create real value within society and enable them to fulfill their destiny.
It can be done. For fundamentals answers to these questions, read ‘MEganize’.