It often happens this way when the federal government interferes with local and state affairs: What sounds reasonable — or even desirable — in theory proves to be expensive and ineffective in practice. So it is with national education standards, which — at first glance — might seem to be an advisable way to ensure children across the country receive educations of a similar caliber.
As a refresher, the Department of Education began to implement the Common Core State Standards Initiative through a back door. Rather than directly mandate the national standards, as would likely have resulted in an outcry from the states, the Ed Department tied Race to the Top dollars to the adoption of the common core. Cash-strapped state legislators who couldn’t resist the lure of badly-needed federal dollars sacrificed local and state control of education policy for a few bucks.
Now, in at least one state, it appears that that sacrifice of freedom and autonomy didn’t even improve the state’s fiscal outlook. In Washington, the state school superintendent has admitted the cost to implement the Common Core will exceed $300 million.
And, just as experts have warned from the beginning, as state officials have begun to adapt previous state education standards to the new Common Core, they’ve found the federal standards codify mediocrity not excellence. More from the Washington Policy Center blog:
The Common Core Standards Initiative are new learning standards imposed on Washington state by the federal government, soon to be followed by a federally- financed test and federal curriculum. Experts on standards are warning that the quality of these standards is mediocre and not internationally benchmarked, as advertised. Nor will they prepare Washington students for college or the workplace, as advertised. They mandate a teaching of geometry that has never been used. They will not purge from Washington classrooms the failing Discovery Math series responsible for confusing and discouraging math study in an entire generation of students. They will require that half the reading texts assigned by English teachers must be non-fiction. In Massachusetts, this means that teachers have been forced to drop literary masterpieces of the American tradition, including Moby Dick, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Huckleberry Finn. The science and technology standards will not teach our students what they need to know, as I show here. Teachers will have to change the questions they ask students under these standards, as I show here.
Fortunately, a way out exists. The American Legislative Exchange Council has moved forward model legislation to grant states an exit strategy from the standards. State legislators who are concerned about the ability to meet this unfunded mandate from the federal government — a mandate that, most importantly, hamstrings the ability of states to meet students’ needs — might want to consider that model legislation — or legislation to defund the implementation of the Common Core — for introduction in their own state legislatures.