Local School Districts Should Eliminate Common Core and Adopt Stronger Standards
Oklahoma is the most recent state to try to eliminate the Common Core standards. Many Oklahomans deserve credit for the bill Gov. Mary Fallin (R) may sign this week. The truth, however, is there will be no end to the Gates Foundation effort to eliminate “white privilege” in K-12 with deliberately weak secondary school standards, rather than to strengthen secondary school coursework for all students with academically rigorous and internationally benchmarked standards.
Perhaps the following steps could be taken at the local level to make sure that state boards of education, commissioners, or departments of education don’t select people for drafting a new set of state standards who are committed to Common Core. Despite any legislative oversight that may be built into bills to eliminate Common Core, states trying to extricate themselves from Common Core may yet experience a version of Gov. Mike Pence’s strategy in Indiana.
The Pence strategy was designed to ensure that committee members selected by his education policy advisor, the state board, commissioner, and department of education replaced the existing version of Common Core’s standards with a dumbed-down version of them (yes, that is possible) instead of with internationally benchmarked and rigorous academic standards. To avoid that possibility, here’s what needs to happen at the local level.
While Oklahoma’s bill wisely requires a return to the state's previous standards and tests during the interim, local school boards should also vote to eliminate Common Core’s standards and any curriculum developed to address them. This will prevent the imposition of a federally imposed Common Core-aligned test at the local level--another possible end-run around state legislatures.
Here are possible steps for local school boards to take, depending on what the legislature has passed:
1. Local school boards vote to eliminate Common Core's standards in their school district. This is as far as Oklahoma needs to go. In other states, parents and others may need to petition their local school boards to do this.
2. Local school boards in other states then need to vote to adopt/develop new and stronger standards in ELA and math for their district. For this to happen, school boards must authorize their superintendent and teaching staff in ELA and math to use as working blueprints the old California or my (free) ELA standards (based on the former Massachusetts ELA standards) and a set of math standards chosen by their high school mathematics staff (they could come from Minnesota, California 1997, Indiana 2006, Massachusetts 2000). It is crucial to start with a non-Common Core blueprint or outline in order to prevent development of a version of Common Core (as in Indiana or Manchester, New Hampshire) called “the floor” or the “Common Core floor.” There is apt to be nothing above the floor to be taught. Even if there is, it won’t be tested.
3. Local school boards then need to vote to direct their superintendent, all school administrators, and all teachers to adjust their K-12 curriculum to address the new standards. (New standards development and curriculum re-adjustment needs to be done in a matter of months, not years.)
4. THEN, local school boards can refuse to administer any Common Core-aligned state tests on the grounds that they are incompatible with their locally adopted, approved, official standards and curriculum. No state or federal money can be legally withheld because there is NO statute in any state requiring local districts to take a test that is incompatible with locally adopted, approved, or official standards and curriculum. Local school boards can do whatever state law does not explicitly require or forbid.
If there is disagreement on the matter by a state commissioner or department of education, let the matter head to the State Supreme Court for hearings. Parents must argue for the right to have their own legally elected school board members and state legislators decide on policies for their local schools.
5. Plan B: The state legislature develops and passes a bill to eliminate the state board and department of education. The U.S. Department of Education then sends Congressionally-appropriated Title I funds directly to local school districts.