Tag: Race to the Top

Heritage on National Standards: Big Expense; Very Little Value

Heritage’s Lindsey Burke has written a web memo on national standards which is up today. She makes the case that the implementation of national standards comes at a great expense and results in very little value.  She has a good guide to spending on standards and assessment systems by states:

The budgetary impact of jettisoning state accountability structures and replacing existing standards and testing could be significant—likely much more than RTTT funding provides.

Over the past decade, taxpayers have spent considerable sums to develop existing state accountability systems:

  • California. California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, which began in 1998, tests students in grades 2–11 in English, math, science, social science, and history. Estimates suggest that it would cost California taxpayers $1.6 billion to replace the existing state standards with the Common Core standards.[4] Yet California has agreed to overhaul its existing system with the new national standards and assessments.
  • Florida. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test measures student achievement in grades 3–11 in reading, math, and science. Since 1996, Florida has spent more than $404 million to develop and maintain the system.[5] Taxpayer investment in the existing high-quality assessments has been substantial, and overhauling the system for unproven national assessments, which Florida has agreed to adopt, could produce significant new implementation costs to taxpayers.
  • Texas. Texas has resisted the push for national standards. The Lone Star State estimates that the adoption of new standards and tests would cost taxpayers upwards of $3 billion. “Adopting national standards and tests would also require the purchase of new textbooks, assessments, and professional development tools, costing Texas taxpayers an estimated $3 billion, on top of the billions of dollars Texas has already invested in developing our strong standards,” stated Governor Rick Perry (R) in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in opposition to national standards and tests.[6]
  • Virginia. The Virginia Board of Education unanimously rejected adoption of the        proposed Common Core State Standards and tests. One of the board’s chief arguments against adopting national standards was fiscal, with members noting that “Virginia’s investment in the Standards of Learning [SOL] since 1995 far exceeds the $250 million Virginia potentially could have received by abandoning the SOL and competing in phase two of Race to the Top.”[7] Indeed, since 1996, Virginia taxpayers have paid more than $379 million to develop and implement the state SOLs. The costs for developing the SOLs include expenditures for the initial development and subsequent revisions of the curriculum frameworks and assessments, as well as the development of new supporting materials and professional development related to using the new testing system.

She also gives a recommended solution for high-quality standards and assessments:

Instead of throwing out existing assessments developed at great taxpayer expense for unproven national standards and tests, state policymakers should:

  • Strengthen existing state-based accountability systems. State leaders should follow the example of states like Florida, Massachusetts, and Virginia and create strong state standards and tests. State leaders should work to continually raise standards by raising achievement levels, ensuring appropriate learning sequencing, and requiring teachers to demonstrate subject-matter mastery.
  • Provide information to parents and taxpayers about school performance. To make assessments meaningful, information about school performance should be publicized and easily accessible to parents and taxpayers. Standards, cut scores, school performance, and definitions of proficiency should all be readily available.
  • Empower parents to act. Once parents are equipped with information about school and student performance based on solid state standards and assessments, they should be empowered to use that information to choose a school that best meets their children’s needs.

Federal policymakers should likewise resist further federal involvement in education and should:

  • Empower states with funding flexibility in exchange for transparency. Instead of providing more federal funding with strings attached—such as national education standards and tests—policymakers in Washington should pursue avenues to maximize transparency of state assessment systems. Federal policymakers should free states from the bureaucratic red tape handed down from Washington and permit state leaders to use federal education funding in a manner that best meets local needs.

I hope state policy makers are listening…

Common Core Standards For Public Schools: A Bad Idea

by Phyllis Schlafly

The No Child Left Behind Act, which allowed states to set their own public school standards for “proficiency,” is opposed and considered a failure by all factions in the education world. Therefore, we obviously should force all kids in every state to be held to uniform national standards of proficiency. Right?

No; wrong. But that bad idea is being aggressively promoted by the Obama Administration. The mailed fist in the velvet glove is the extraordinary river of taxpayers’ money used to force compliance.

Having taken over major parts of the banking industry, the mortgage industry, the auto industry, the college student-loan industry, and the health-care industry, the Obama Administration is now taking over the $600 billion public-school industry with taxpayers’ money from the Stimulus package. The White House concedes that “stimulus” is a negative word and avoids its use because it obviously didn’t stimulate jobs, but Stimulus dollars will stimulate the takeover of our children’s minds under Common Core Standards, the moniker for forcing national curriculum standards on all public schools.

Imposing common-core national standards sounds so alluring to those who look to the Obama Administration to solve all our problems. We would get rid of our messy, different 50-state variations of standards, and make our kids smarter by incentivizing them to aspire to a higher bar of achievement, make them all college-ready, enable them to rank higher on international tests, and enable them to better compete in the new global economy.

Au contraire. For starters, the imposition of national standards isn’t constitutional. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government to exercise any control over education, and this limitation is reinforced by a longstanding federal law that forbids the federal government “to mandate, direct, or control … school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of state or local resources.”

But the Obama Administration isn’t known for checking out its authority with the Constitution or the law. And control of public school curriculum is a very desirable prize for those who seek to control the future.

Even Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano admitted in 1977, “national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.” The bait is use of our money, lots of it.

The Obama Administration plans to do an end-run around the Constitution and the federal law by tying the Common Core Standards to the granting or denying of federal appropriations, both the $4.35 billion Race To The Top money and even Title I funding. That effectively makes the Common Core Standards compulsory because state politicians are not likely to turn down billions of dollars.

So far, at least 36 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core Standards. Only Texas and Virginia have indicated reluctance to adopt.

Much of the argument for Common Core Standards is that our decentralized, 50-state control of curriculum is so unlike educational systems in most other countries, but so what! Americans honor our exceptionalism and our federalism, and we don’t want to be “fundamentally transformed” into European-style socialism.

Conclusions offered by the research into systems used in other countries are thin, unpersuasive and largely irrelevant to the United States. The countries cited have a long tradition of central government control plus a largely homogeneous culture, whereas the United States has a diverse population and strong traditions of parental authority, limited government, and state (not federal) control of education.

There is absolutely no assurance that parents or the public will approve the content of the proposed Common Core Standards. Many so-called education “experts” openly advocate imposing curriculum standards on content that parents find offensive, such as non-phonics in reading instruction and left-wing and feminist propaganda in social studies, and on methodology such as deliberately not teaching facts or basic arithmetic skills in order to emphasize creativity.

The better way to go is toward what is known as school choice, i.e., allowing parents to choose the school they want for their children, a.k.a. the free market in education. Private choice would sort out the curricula that do the job of making kids smart.

Children will never be adequately educated under a system run by bureaucrats handing out money and the teachers unions (the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers) spending the money in the classroom. The NEA and the AFT also have extraordinary millions of dollars extracted from their members to lobby for policies they want to have enacted by Congress, state legislatures and school boards and also to elect their favored political candidates.

The Federal Takeover of Education

Great article in the American Thinker on national education standards and the Common Core Standards Initiative.  Thanks to State School Board Member Betty Peters for prompting the writing of this piece.

The Federal Takeover of Education

by Bill Costello

Federal control over education has been growing since the 1960s despite the fact that the word education does not appear in the Constitution of the United States.

Now, as the current administration pushes for national education standards, federal control over education is about to expand considerably at the expense of state and local control.

Texas Eduation Commissioner Robert Scott described the push for national education standards as “a step toward a federal takeover of the nation’s public schools.”

A little more than a year ago, state leaders launched the Common Core State Standards Initiative to develop a common set of K-12 standards in English and math. The standards they developed, known as the Common Core, are the first and only common education standards.  Read More…