Some local school districts in the United States are making the decision to abandon the Common Core standards and the associated testing, choosing instead higher-level learning standards and curricula, then sharing these with other school districts.
As Loren Heal observes at the Heartland Institute, Manchester, New Hampshire, Bradley County, Tennessee, and Germantown, Wisconsin are a few of the school districts that have rejected the Common Core standards.
Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison at New Hampshire-based Cornerstone Policy Research, said the school board in Manchester “decided to develop local standards because of the numerous parents who attended school board meetings demanding something better.”
Charlie Rose, the chairman of the board of education in Bradley County Tennessee, said, “They haven’t piloted [Common Core] anywhere. They just said, ‘Here it is.’ And in Tennessee they’re just shoving it down our throats, as far as I’m concerned.”
Rose, a retired teacher, said mandates like Common Core limit the curriculum and are essentially one-size-fits-all systems.
“We should be introducing our children to everything we possibly can through the twelfth grade, and then they can start specializing in college and when they get out of school,” added Rose. “I don’t think every kid needs to go to college. I’m sorry. They need to get education beyond twelve years, but it may be in a specialty like welding, or vocational courses.”
“The government does not know better than the parents how to educate kids,” Rose said. “And they’re taking more and more decision-making away from locals and putting it down from the federal government. And there’s no way they know more what our children need than we do locally.”
Last July, as noted by Brittany Corona at the Heritage Foundation, the Douglas County School Board in Colorado passed a resolution opposing Common Core due to the quality of the standards and on principle.
Corona wrote that Douglas County had been setting the example for education policy with its Scholarship Program and merit-based teacher pay system. Then, it also voted to ensure that what is taught in its schools is not determined by political and educational elites and bureaucrats in Washington D.C.
In the resolution, Douglas County school board members stated that it is their constitutional duty and discretion to set curriculum and standards for their students. They uphold that duty by using “broad local control to pursue world-class education innovations and the most rigorous academic standards anywhere–innovations and standards that will prepare our students for the demands of the 21st century workplace and global economy.” They do not believe the Common Core standards allow them to uphold that duty or adequately prepare their students.
The Douglas County school board argued that the district’s Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (GVC) is “more rigorous, more thorough, and more directly tailored to the needs of Douglas County students” than the Common Core centralized standards.
In Germantown, Wisconsin, the school board turned away the Common Core and created its own standards. Since initiating this move in December, school board member Brian Medved said the district has received over 225 applications for open enrollment.
“That tells us we’re doing the right thing,” Medved said. “We had a top-performing district in the state, and we felt we had the standard and we had the curriculum. Common Core was going to be a step backward for us.”
According to Medved, this month the district is placing its standards and curriculum online for any district to use. Curriculum and standards expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who developed the highly acclaimed Massachusetts academic standards, will lead a discussion about curriculum and standards for the Germantown school district on April 9.
“A district with a stronger curriculum than one addressing Common Core’s standards is betting implicitly that its results will be better on the state test,” Stotsky wrote at Breitbart News.
“If schools choosing to address more demanding standards than Common Core’s are ranked low on a Common Core-aligned test for several years,” she continued, “they may face state department of education sanctions, which can range from the state managing the district to reshuffling school administrators.”
Stotsky advised that lawmakers address this “power play” by “withholding funding of the state’s department of education if it seeks to prevent schools with low scores on a Common Core-aligned test from addressing more demanding standards than Common Core’s.”
“All the district should be required to do is produce evidence of evaluations showing that its standards are more demanding than Common Core’s,” Stotsky wrote.
In fact, one potentially positive benefit of the Common Core controversy in the country may be that it has led Americans to take a hard look at their state and local school boards. Questions being asked include, “Are state school board members elected or appointed by the governor?” “Do state school boards decide on academic standards without legislative approval or public hearings?” “Do we live in a ‘local control’ state in which the local school board has the legal right to remove our school district from the Common Core standards?”
Last September, Karen Schroeder, president of Advocates for Academic Freedom and an educational consultant, wrote at EAG News that she knows “local control” of education exists in her home state of Wisconsin, as well as in Ohio and North Carolina.
“Legislators and (state education departments) have, in my opinion, kept this information very close to the vest,” Schroeder wrote. “That is deceit of the ugliest kind.”
I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and asked the following question: If a school district decides to reject Common Core standards and replace them with a superior set of standards, will that school district still receive state and/or federal funds?
I received the following response from Emilie Amundsen, director of the Common Core State Standards Team at DPI:
Yes. In Wisconsin, each school board has the statutory authority to adopt the state standards or any other set of standards, inferior or superior. This is called local control. When applied to schools, local control means that decisions about standards, curriculum and instruction are made at the local level. School districts must have standards. The type, quality and scope of those standards are left to local school boards to decide. This has always been the case in Wisconsin, and this has not changed as a result of Wisconsin adopting Common Core state standards.
Schroeder said the staff at EAG News is surveying states to find out which allow for “local control” of education.
North Carolina has acknowledged that its local school districts are free to reject Common Core, but that mandatory state tests will still be aligned with the centralized standards.
State officials in Utah responded that local districts do not have the power to drop out of Common Core.