The popularity of the Common Core national standards is steadily plummeting.
A CBS News poll found that 59 percent of those familiar with Common Core oppose it, and for good reason. The 2015 SAT scores were the lowest in a decade. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests fourth- and eighth-graders in math and reading, saw scores drop for the first time in more than two decades. And the teaching philosophies of Common Core seem, to many parents, simply bizarre.
Almost all the Republican presidential candidates claim opposition and are trying to distance themselves from previous support of Common Core.
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But parents and activists who thought their legislatures had removed the standards and replaced them with their own, better-quality standards, are realizing they have still have Common Core — just rebranded.
Common Core will not die easily. Here are a few of the reasons for its staying power.
Follow the Money
Big money is and has always been a significant driver of Common Core. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent more than $250 million promoting the standards. Gates’s grantees include state departments of education, advocacy groups such as Stand for Children, political players such as the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School officers, think tanks such as the Fordham Institute, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Bill Gates’s Microsoft anticipates increased sales with the change to Common Core online testing and the technology that will be used as part of the Common Core program.
Also of help is the mainstream media’s overwhelmingly support Common Core. One reason why is that the Gates Foundation directly funds media outlets such as NPR and PBS. Other media-connected outfits are implicated as well. In 2012, when GE owned 49 percent of NBC, the GE Foundation gave $18 million to Common Core creator David Coleman’s company to help states implement the national standards.
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Myriad corporations are poised to rake in Common Core-related profits. News Corp., which owns the Wall Street Journal, is now heavily invested in education. It’s focusing on the “digital learning” promoted with Common Core.
Common Core diminishes attention to academic knowledge, pushing instead “21st-century skills” and “competencies” that can be drilled through digital platforms.
Connected to the “skills” focus is workforce preparation. Big business has been promised the standards will produce workers whom employers don’t have to train. This explains why corporations are funding politicians who quietly promise to protect Common Core.
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Equally important to the Rasputin-like survival of Common Core is ideology. Common Core embraces progressive education theory, to which the federal and state education establishments monolithically ascribe.
Common Core essentially is another iteration of the failed “Outcome-Based Education” of the 1990s. That means it diminishes academic content and substitutes the inculcation of government-approved attitudes and mindsets.
Parents might object if they knew this is happening in their children’s schools, but the education establishment is wedded to the concept and will walk over hot coals to ensure it survives.
In addition to magically producing a super workforce, the assessments, data, and software used as part of the program will help predict careers for our children even as they toddle off to preschool.
That is the progressive dream — use data and “education” to produce citizens who know their place in the managed economy, and the managed global society.
Many key state-level players who ushered in Common Core — state superintendents, board of education members, governors, and legislators — are still in office. They don’t want to admit it’s crashing and refuse to acknowledge the low-quality standards, teach-to-the-test mentality, and intrusive data-collection emanating from the scheme.
In the case of governors, many have swallowed the Chamber of Commerce propaganda about “rigorous” standards and workforce development. And they’re arrogant enough to think if they just drop the term “Common Core,” parents won’t notice their children are still suffering under the same standards with their progressive-education fads and diminished academic content.
But these politicians should beware. Protecting the Common Core enterprise has doomed the career aspirations of a host of politicians. Now we’ll see whether others adopt the Common Core spin, or whether they realize what is truly upsetting to parents. We’ll see if they have the spine to defy the donor class in favor of parents and kids.
Anna Arthurs is a founder of Louisiana Catholics for Excellence in Education and a parent activist opposing Common Core.