National education standards will be a costly failure

Editorial from the Columbus Dispatch April 27, 2013
by Seth Morgan

On June 2, 2010, the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers quietly changed American public education as we know it. On that humid summer day from the swamps of Washington, D.C., sprung the Common Core State Standards, a national curriculum aimed at standardizing K-12 education across the country.

Only 16 days later, Ohio’s State Board of Education adopted Common Core, pushing the national standards on our state’s schools without allowing enough time for parents and teachers to review what their children will be learning. Three years later, the negative repercussions of this hasty decision are unraveling in the Buckeye State.

At a time when Ohioans are struggling to make ends meet, Common Core could cost taxpayers up to $500 million to fully implement, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Common Core is so expensive because every school in the state will have to refurnish its library upon adoption, buying thousands of new textbooks that comply with the national standards. But, the textbook costs are just the beginning. Ohio schools also will have to buy hundreds of new computers, since Common Core requires standardized tests be administered online. These tests, by the way, have not yet been released, and the standards are set to kick in this fall.

Besides immediate concerns of time and money, the history of American education shows Common Core is bound to fail because it repeats the unsuccessful strategy of centrally planning public schools pioneered by the federal government. For decades, Washington has had its meddling hands in America’s public schools, tying students and teachers down with red tape that hinders educational progress. Be it President Bill Clinton’s Goals 2000, President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind or President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, Uncle Sam has assumed he knows how to run our schools better than parents and teachers, constantly pushing new standards, tests, rules and regulations on our students.

History has taught us that their intruding tactics have not worked. Nationally, the freshman high-school graduation rates have flatlined since the early 1980s, and scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have shown little sign of improvement, as well. Common Core only continues this trend of Washington-style one-size-fits-all reforms, and is thereby bound to fail.

No Ohio student is safe from Common Core’s reach. Children enrolled in charter and private schools, and even homeschoolers, are still held to the standards through college entrance exams. Both the SAT and ACT are scheduled to align to Common Core in the upcoming years, requiring every student with university aspirations to learn the new national standards.

Common Core’s folly is that it shifts focus away from where actual learning takes place: the classroom. It’s no surprise that central planners in Washington cannot magically improve education across the nation by writing white papers detailing new national standards. Instead, education reform in Ohio should be targeted at the classroom, improving teacher accountability and empowering parents with choice in where to send their child to school.

States such as our neighbor Indiana are achieving these goals by looking to school choice and away from Common Core. In 2011, the Hoosier State passed the largest opportunity scholarship program in the country and is currently considering a repeal of Common Core. Ohio should do the same before we fall for Washington’s ruse again.

Seth Morgan is the policy director of Americans for Prosperity – Ohio.

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