Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush discussed Common Core during an interview with Education Next. Below is my response to his statements:
EN: You have been a steadfast supporter of the common core, even when others have become increasingly critical. Why? What do you say to critics?
JB: I support high academic standards. Period.
KRE: If you support high academic standards, then why do you support Common Core? They are untested; not rigorous; not internationally benchmarked; developed by one key architect who admitted the major authors were "unqualified;" admitted by another key architect to be inadequate for STEM majors in four year universities; admitted by the US DOE, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and other major groups to teach "social emotional learning," "mindsets,"" behaviors;" and are declared by 500 early childhood experts, as well as many content experts and psychologists to be developmentally inappropriate.
JB: High academic standards are a basic element of reform. Yet, across the country, state standards have been abysmally low for too long, evidenced by the fact that 75 percent of high school graduates are not fully prepared for college or a good paying job. A recent study by the American Institutes for Research compared state standards with international assessments and found the difference between states with the highest and lowest standards was the equivalent of three to four grade levels.
KRE: There is no evidence that statewide or national standards improve academic performance. Since the passage of the Improving America's Schools Act and Goals 2000, started by your father and completed by President Clinton in 1994, NAEP scores have either been stagnant or fallen.
According to research by the Cato Institute, the U.S. does both better and worse on international achievement comparisons than nations that have national standards Additionally, according to research by Dr. Chris Tienken at Seton Hall University, the US far exceeds the nations that outperform American students on international comparisons with regard to entrepreneurship and innovation.
JB: Low standards are a tactic that takes pressure off teachers unions by accepting mediocrity and failure for kids. Our children can achieve great things when we set high expectations for them.
KRE: Yes, teachers and local districts with parents, teachers and duly elected school boards should set high expectations for children, but state and national standards are unconstitutional and ineffective. Accountability should be to parents and local districts, not to the state and federal governments. The statewide tests used to comply with federal mandates are not available to teachers and parents to inform instruction and the myriad other tests that accompany them in preparation are consuming 30-50% of class time, narrowing the curricular offerings, tying up computer availability, collecting massive amounts of data that include psychological profiles on our children, and costing districts far too much.
JB: The Common Core State Standards are more rigorous standards than the great majority of states had in place previously. As Checker Finn once noted, they respect basic skills, mathematical computation, the conventions of the English language, good literature and America's founding documents.
KRE: So, do you and Chester Finn consider the pornographic novels The Bluest Eye, Dreaming in Cuban, In the Time of the Butterflies, and others on the official Common Core Appendix B recommended reading list "good literature"? Why does Appendix B only recommend the Preamble and the Bill of Rights when discussing the Constitution? While the Common Core may "respect...mathematical computation;" it does not teach standard algorithms in the proper sequence, focuses far too much on process while denigrating accuracy, and delays or omits higher math in high school that will severely damage students' ability to pursue math and science related college majors at selective four year universities. That is not rigorous and those are not high standards.
JB:States are free to modify the Common Core State Standards or adopt their own individual standards, because academic standards are the prerogative of the states.
KRE:How are states free to modify beyond the 15% limit set forth in the Common Core memorandum of understanding of these copyrighted standards? What is the plan for revising these standards as time goes on and the myriad of fatal or near fatal flaws with them continue to be elucidated? If states have so much freedom, why was Indiana's NCLB waiver threatened and Oklahoma's removed after opting out?
JB: The opposition to the common core has been mostly fueled by President Obama and his administration attempting to take credit for and co-opt a state-led initiative.
KRE: The opposition to Common Core is coming from people and groups from all across the political spectrum and for a host of reasons, of which opposition to President Obama may be only one or not at all on the list. Both the report Benchmarking for Success and the Race to the Top memorandum of understanding discussed "federal tiered incentives." The plan all along was to have these standards incentivized or required for federal funds. If you are so opposed to Barak Obama's education plans, then why did you appear so supportive of his education ideas at this event in Miami?
JB: To be clear, higher academic standards are necessary, and the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. If state leaders don't like common core, they should embrace the challenge of raising their standards even higher. I'll be the first person in line to support them.
KRE: To be equally clear, federally mandated state standards have done nothing in this country to improve achievement and several think tanks including the Brookings Institute say that national standards, particularly Common Core, will not improve achievement either. The Common Core standards are academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate and psychologically manipulative, and they will further denigrate our already troubled education system.
JB: Most importantly, the best, highest standards in the world won't matter if we don't accurately measure whether students are truly learning, and hold schools accountable for the results.
KRE: Testing has always been a part of education. But using tests punitively at the state and federal levels and as a means to collect massive amounts of private data on children and families is unconstitutional and abusive and not the way to do accountability. The new tests that are computer adaptive will not give uniform results across a classroom, much less across the state or nation. They will be manipulated to prove whatever those in charge want pr oven or they will be used to manipulate attitudes and behavior. Our children are not guinea pigs.