Common Core: Myths Undressed
Please check out what one of Montana's most distinguished educators has to say, yet again, about Common Core and the wrong-headed myths opponents like to spread.
by Mary Moe - 1987 Montana Teacher of the Year
MYTH: The Common Core Is an Unpiloted, Untested “Program”
FACT: It is important to distinguish between the national standards and the ones Montana adopted, as well as between state standards, local curriculum, and programs/courses teachers design to meet local and state expectations. The Common Core standards and Montana’s Common Core Standards are not “programs” that can be piloted or tested. Developing, piloting, and assessing learning experiences happen at the local level, under the supervision of locally elected school boards.
Just like other professionals, educators play the central role in the development, implementation, and evaluation of educational standards, whether at the national, state, or local level. That role is fundamental to the profession of teaching. Most of Montana’s Teachers of the Year, 22 of whom recently endorsed Montana’s Common Core Standards, have seen Montana through the adoption and implementation of several sets of standards over the course of their careers. Those of them in the English language arts and mathematics fields actively followed the development of the Common Core at the national level and the subsequent adoption of Montana’s Common Core Standards over the past several years. That is the way that standards are vetted and validated in our profession.
MYTH: Federal Mandates, State Standards Usurp Local Control
FACT: Neither the United States Constitution, nor Montana’s, allows for such usurpation. The federal government played no role in the development of the Common Core standards, although the Department of Education did encourage states to adopt them through its “Race to the Top” initiative. Montana’s RTTT proposal was not funded. The federal government played no role in Montana’s adoption or in local implementation of Montana’s Common Core Standards. Montana’s Board of Public Education refined the national standards to meet the Common Core goal of general consistency across states while preserving the educational goals unique to Montana. Local school boards must meet state standards, but the adoption of curriculum, the design of courses, and the selection of instructional materials remain under the purview of local school boards.
MYTH: Montana's Common Core Standards Compromise Parent and Student Rights
FACT: Claims that Montana’s Common Core Standards intrude upon parent rights and student privacy are just plain wrong. Read the standards. There is no evidence to support such claims.
MYTH: Montana’s Common Core Standards Lower Expectations
FACT: Compare Montana’s recently adopted standards with the ones they replace. They are more specific, more rigorous, more comprehensive, and more connected to the expectations of colleges and careers.
MYTH: Experts Oppose the Common Core
It is true that some opponents believe Common Core is too watered-down to reflect America’s literary and cultural heritage. Yet cultural literacy proponents Hirsch, Bennett, and Finn support the Core. It is true that one mathematician on the Common Core validation committee for mathematics standards ultimately refused to support them. It is important to remember that many, many mathematics and English language arts professionals helped develop the Core standards, both on national committees and from the field.
The adopted standards reflect the majority's view of the standards best-suited to meet the Core goals of rigor and relevance. Education is a profession, and like all professionals, educators disagree, sometimes strongly, with a particular direction our profession takes. But to present a couple of outliers as the oracles for all of us is insulting to the profession and intellectually dishonest.
If the Common Core standards intrude upon parents’ rights, why does the National PTA support them? If they fail to prepare students for 21st-century careers, why do Bill Gates, Exxon/Mobil, Intel, State Farm, and the Carnegie Corporation support them? If they fail to prepare students for college, why do the College Board and ACT support them?
MYTH: Montana’s Common Core Standards Will Be Expensive to Implement
FACT: Core opponents’ claims about the costs of implementation ($16 billion nationally and $40 million in Montana) have been refuted by the Fordham Institute nationally and, in Montana, by the Legislative Fiscal Division.
But let’s be clear: Implementing Montana’s Common Core Standards does come with a price tag. So did the post-Sputnik curriculum changes that produced a generation of students better equipped to compete in the 20th century. So did No Child Left Behind, which, unlike the Common Core, truly was a federal mandate.
Let’s be clear about this too: The expenses for technology, assessments, textbooks and professional development entailed in implementing local curriculum to meet the new state standards would have accrued with the adoption of any 21st-century standards.
MYTH: Public Schools in Montana Have Other Pressing Needs
FACT: For sure. Investing in new facilities, up-to-date technology, ongoing professional development, and appropriate class sizes are extremely pressing needs. But what is the point of providing up-to-date facilities and technology and more student-friendly class sizes if what children are expected to learn is not up to par?
What Is the Real Agenda?
The voices raised against the Common Core, nationally and in Montana, are the same voices constantly raised to criticize public education and to seek public funding for privatization alternatives. It is reasonable to conclude that, far from being concerned about the effects of the Common Core on the children in our public schools, they have simply seized upon this issue in yet another attempt to discredit public education in Montana and throughout our country.
Read more about Common Core:
Twenty-two Montana Teachers of the Year recently signed a letter in support of Montana's Common Core Standards. It appeared in many local newspapers statewide. Read the letter here.
Read the standards themselves here.