Despite support, Common Core standards are untested

National education standards will do nothing to foster local communities of learning, and without such communities, no amount of reform will help all of our kids realize their full intellectual potential as citizens.

Viewed in that light, Common Core Standards are at best untested, their implementation premature.

The Michigan Legislature is among several state assemblies that are pushing back on Common Core Standards, and although we may not agree with all of the concerns driving that opposition, we have concerns of our own.

Under a budget bill passed by a Republican-led Legislative panel (recently), the Legislature would have to affirm the Common Core State Standards before the state Department of Education could use the funds to implement the standards.

Gov. Rick Snyder has previously expressed support for the standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

But the standards are running into resistance in Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, persuaded eight senators to sign a letter in April asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop the Education Department from linking adoption of the standards to eligibility for other federal dollars.

That same month, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution calling the standards an “inappropriate overreach.”

Not all of the opposition, however, arises from conservatives worried about a federal takeover of public school curricula. Progressive educators have criticized the lack of rigor in studying the impact of the standards.

Education historian Diane Ravitch, a leading voice in the movement opposing corporate-based school reform, called the effort to implement the standards “fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.”

In her blog post of Feb. 26, Ravitch wrote that rather than being developed by states, the standards are the product of a group called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation.

Ravitch also noted that eligibility for Race to the Top funding was a major incentive to adopt the standards.

We’re not necessarily opposed to setting new standards. Common Core designed to be more rigorous than the current standards in most states, and to encourage deeper critical thinking.

Laudable goals, if indeed those goals are realistic. We can’t determine that, however, without testing the standards through carefully monitored pilots that are representative of the myriad challenges facing public education. Doing so at a national level is imprudent at best.

Further, in our national obsession for setting new standards, we’re ignoring the main reasons for poor student performance: high levels of childhood poverty and insufficient levels of public support for schools serving vulnerable communities.

Our greatest concern is that Common Core Standards are simply another set-up for national standardized tests, which is in our view a recipe for failure (and a massive waste of money).

We need not throw out the idea of common standards as a tool for helping educators measure progress, but we should at least slow down this train and determine if they work before turning public schools upside down.