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Rotten to the Core

Untested national school standards stifle local voices

As soon as someone tells you something will save education, hide your children, hide your wife and check your back pocket.

Because education deals with children and the American dream, it’s a land of magical thinking. The latest unproven fad is called Common Core.

No one ever field-tested it, but 45 states, including Indiana, adopted it, believing its mental sugar pills will make all U.S. kids “college- and career-ready.”

The Core defines what K-12 children must know in math and English, and forms the basis of forthcoming national tests.

The people who wrote it are not teachers, nor are they from Indiana.

Indiana’s Senate just passed Senate Bill 193 in a bipartisan vote. Republicans sponsored the bill, and Democratic State Superintendent Glenda Ritz supports it.

The bill would pause Common Core while the state Board of Education gets public input in all nine congressional districts and commissions a financial analysis. Most states didn’t check the costs before signing on.

Why should they? Everyone’s doing Common Core. It must be brilliant.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has whipped conservatives into agreement: It “will prepare our students for success in college and their careers,” he wrote. It will help close the achievement gap between rich and poor children, supporters insist.

Its tests will “redeem assessment in the hearts and minds of teachers and parents,” said David Coleman, one of the Core’s four chief writers.

Next they’ll be telling us it multiplies bread and walks on water.

President Obama said by financially rewarding states for adopting the Core, he “convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards.”

Odd. Three laws prohibit the federal government from influencing curriculum.

Core supporters keep insisting states spawned it, although foundations and the federal government paid all the bills. No one will name which state leaders, exactly, made which decisions. No matter: It’s for the children.

Anyone who disagrees or questions, even left-leaning researchers who found education standards don’t increase learning, hates children.

The nationwide initiative, operational this year in Indiana only in kindergarten and first grade, has prompted “lots of sycophantic cheerleading,” complains Andy Smarick, a Common Core supporter.

Rick Hess, a think tanker in touch with state superintendents, lawmakers and school leaders across the country, called their “eerie confidence” in something no one has tested the “Common Core Kool-Aid.”

Remember the last time lawmakers prophesied an education miracle? It was called No Child Left Behind.

All that accomplished was to increase federal education spending 64 percent, occupy schools with 6,680,334 more hours of paperwork, and infuriate teachers and parents by its ridiculous pretense that a law can phantasmagorically eradicate refusal to learn, poor parenting, children’s different intellectual abilities and so forth.

Fort Wayne parents and teachers, like others across the country, have voiced plentiful concerns. For one, states are building massive databases to house student information from the tests, including health records, behavioral analyses, family income and more, which the feds recently decided it could share with anyone without notifying parents. Common Core tests, which its promoters expect will fail great numbers of children, are tied to Indiana teacher pay and job security. Curriculum experts say the standards are worse than Indiana’s previous standards and not internationally competitive or supported by research.

Worst of all, Common Core removes local voices in education. When centralized, unelected administrators control curriculum and testing, where do parents and teachers go with concerns?

Let’s raise such questions with our elected representatives while we still can. The bill’s next stop is the Indiana House. Tell them no more Common Core Kool-Aid.

Joy Pullmann is a Fort Wayne resident and an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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