In their frustration with education reform, conservative theorists often fall prey to the same inclination of their putative opponents—nationalization. In their rush to nationalize tough standards for schools, these scholars often find the standard elusive: Only the national part remains. Think No Child Left Behind.
That dance is about to begin anew. “The K-12 academic standards in English language arts (ELA) and math produced last month by the Common Core State Standards Initiative are clearer and more rigorous than today’s ELA standards in 37 states and today’s math standards in 39 states,” the Fordham Institute found.
Yet even two Fordham spokesmen enthusiastic about such changes—Chester Finn and Michael Petrilli—admit that:
“A number of states signed on to the Common Core standards at least in part to boost their chances of getting federal education dollars from [Education Secretary Arne] Duncan’s ‘Race to the Top’ competition” and
“There are risks inherent in a national anything, particularly if the federal government clumsily tries to intervene.”
“Increasing federal power has not improved education in the past half century,” Rachel Sheffield and Lindsay Burke at the Heritage Foundation observe. “Why would this boost to federal power be any different?” Why indeed.
The Pioneer Institute of Boston found that the standards literally do no add up.
“There are also many weaknesses in Common Core’s high school standards,” Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman write. “Compared with the content of the standards in California and Massachusetts for Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, the content of Common Core’s standards for these three basic courses shows low academic expectations for its definition of ‘college readiness.’”
“Finally, Common Core replaces the traditional Euclifean foundations of school geometry with an experimental approach to the study of middle and high school geometry that has not been widely used elsewhere in the world, or considered effective where it was tried out.”
Stotsky is a professor at the University of Arkansas. Wurman is a Silicon Valley executive.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.