The truth about Common Core

Ethan Young is a senior in high school. He made a wonderful presentation to the Knox County Tennessee school board about Common Core. It’s a wonderfully researched presentation and challenged the school board to research and disprove his claims. They haven’t.

Common Core is the education equivalent of ObamaCare, I’ve referred to it as “ObamaCore” because the US Department of Education and the Obama administration – and the Bush administration before it with No Child Left Behind – are simply building a centrally planned, one size fits all, education model for the nation.

All central planning has done for the nation so far has reduce standards and raise costs in every endeavor with which they’ve gotten involved. Look at the difference between the value of a high school diploma in the 70s and early 80s versus the value of that same diploma today.

New York City, as with every major city, graduates people from high school who can’t read or make change. Last year 80% of the New York City high school graduating class required remedial help in reading and/or math to enter community college. Cost per student in 2012? $19,000.

New York City is not an outlier. They are pretty much the norm. School systems are overrun with administrators, counselors, every kind of employee but teachers. Their jobs? Filling out federal and state forms to make sure they maximize their funding. Making sure every student fits a bureaucratic notion of the appropriate “one size”.

The only thing that will fix the public school system, produce graduates who can actually function academically, and restore the value of a high school diploma is competition. Offering parents vouchers and letting them choose the school system of their choice for their kids will take the focus off of satisfying regulators and put it back on satisfying kids and their parents, the actual consumers of the education product.

Is there someone out there who will stand with Ethan Young and repudiate Common Core, ObamaCore, demand local control – and local funding – for their schools, and demand accountability from their local school systems?

Let us know what you think needs to be done.

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Posted by on December 5, 2013.
Filed under Culture, Education.
Tagged with: .
Michael Becker is a long time activist and a businessman. He's been involved in the pro-life movement since 1976 and has been counseling addicts and ministering to prison inmates since 1980. Becker is a Curmudgeon. He has decades of experience as an operations executive in turnaround situations and in mortgage banking. He blogs regularly at The Right Curmudgeon, The Minority Report, Wizbang, Unified Patriots and Joe for America. He lives in Phoenix and is almost always armed.

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  • Vagabond661

    My first clue on how bad it has gotten since i graduated HS in the 70′s was when we moved within from one home to another in our small town of Jupiter, Florida.
    Our son had just graduated from one of the better elementary schools in that town and was headed to middle school. However, the school in our new zone was sub par to the one down the road and actually closer to our new home.

    I had to take time off work and travel to the “Taj Mahal” ( which we called it because of the extravagance) school board office in West Palm Beach to plead my case in person to a 4 member panel. After 20 inutes they said they would verbally approve it and send a letter.
    I thought to myself, “Why should I have to grovel at their feet when I pay the taxes for their schools and their salaries?”

    • jim_m

      Because they are the rulers and you are the ruled.

      • Vagabond661

        By the way here is a link to the taj mahal. It was built in 1992 when many schools were badly in need of repair.

        http://www.palmbeachschools.org/it/images/IBIS-map.jpg

        • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

          Not surprising – in the late ’80s I was doing computer maintenance in a local school system, and the teachers were complaining about how the cost of the new administrative offices were really hurting the schools.
          But hey, you gotta have good digs for all those important administrative types, otherwise how are you going to attract the best and brightest?

        • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

          Not surprising – in the late ’80s I was doing computer maintenance in a local school system, and the teachers were complaining about how the cost of the new administrative offices were really hurting the schools.
          But hey, you gotta have good digs for all those important administrative types, otherwise how are you going to attract the best and brightest?

      • Vagabond661

        By the way here is a link to the taj mahal. It was built in 1992 when many schools were badly in need of repair.

        http://www.palmbeachschools.org/it/images/IBIS-map.jpg

    • jim_m

      Because they are the rulers and you are the ruled.

  • Vagabond661

    My first clue on how bad it has gotten since i graduated HS in the 70′s was when we moved within from one home to another in our small town of Jupiter, Florida.
    Our son had just graduated from one of the better elementary schools in that town and was headed to middle school. However, the school in our new zone was sub par to the one down the road and actually closer to our new home.

    I had to take time off work and travel to the “Taj Mahal” ( which we called it because of the extravagance) school board office in West Palm Beach to plead my case in person to a 4 member panel. After 20 inutes they said they would verbally approve it and send a letter.
    I thought to myself, “Why should I have to grovel at their feet when I pay the taxes for their schools and their salaries?”

  • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

    From “Who Benefits from the Public Schools?”

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/who-benefits-from-the-public-schools/?singlepage=true

    Okay, I admit it: I’m giving away the punchline. Who benefits? It’s not New York City schoolteachers: remember that a teacher with a 20 student class is still bringing in more that $400,000 in revenue for a nine-month semester, whether they’re paid $45,000 a year or the maximum, and they basically don’t get any more (or any less) based on anything but seniority. Numbers for New York City schools have been hard to find, but in New York state, school spending has increased, teachers’ pay has increased, but non-teaching professionals’ pay has increased faster. In Nassau County, just outside New York City, the first 30 school employees listed on the RocDocs site make more that $250,000 a year, with the highest salary being that of the superintendent, at $567,248.00. (And I’d love to show you actual New York City statistics, but they are hard to find. Curiously so.)

    I’ve got one more rule that serves me well. I assume that every human institution optimizes its behavior to maximize rewards, and while money isn’t everything, when you’re looking at reward it’s the way to bet. I think we must conclude that New York schools — and this analysis can be replicated in nearly every big-city school system — are being run to benefit not the teachers and, with 80 percent near-illiteracy rates, not the students. The school systems are a very successful, profit-making institution that distributes their profits to the “stockholders” — the non-teaching professional staff.

    We spent a fair chunk to get the little guy (HA! Getting close to 6 feet tall, so he’s not so little any more…) through a private school until 9th grade. The school wasn’t perfect, but they instilled in him good study habits and a good background to build on, and all told it was well worth the money. (And he’s doing better and he’s gone further academically in 10th grade than I did in high school in the ’70s. Not that I’m bragging on him or anything… much. (lol…))

    It would be very interesting indeed to see a chart comparing outcomes against the ratio of non-teaching academics to teaching/support personnel. For some reason I’m thinking a very interesting curve would develop…

  • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

    From “Who Benefits from the Public Schools?”

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/who-benefits-from-the-public-schools/?singlepage=true

    Okay, I admit it: I’m giving away the punchline. Who benefits? It’s not New York City schoolteachers: remember that a teacher with a 20 student class is still bringing in more that $400,000 in revenue for a nine-month semester, whether they’re paid $45,000 a year or the maximum, and they basically don’t get any more (or any less) based on anything but seniority. Numbers for New York City schools have been hard to find, but in New York state, school spending has increased, teachers’ pay has increased, but non-teaching professionals’ pay has increased faster. In Nassau County, just outside New York City, the first 30 school employees listed on the RocDocs site make more that $250,000 a year, with the highest salary being that of the superintendent, at $567,248.00. (And I’d love to show you actual New York City statistics, but they are hard to find. Curiously so.)

    I’ve got one more rule that serves me well. I assume that every human institution optimizes its behavior to maximize rewards, and while money isn’t everything, when you’re looking at reward it’s the way to bet. I think we must conclude that New York schools — and this analysis can be replicated in nearly every big-city school system — are being run to benefit not the teachers and, with 80 percent near-illiteracy rates, not the students. The school systems are a very successful, profit-making institution that distributes their profits to the “stockholders” — the non-teaching professional staff.

    We spent a fair chunk to get the little guy (HA! Getting close to 6 feet tall, so he’s not so little any more…) through a private school until 9th grade. The school wasn’t perfect, but they instilled in him good study habits and a good background to build on, and all told it was well worth the money. (And he’s doing better and he’s gone further academically in 10th grade than I did in high school in the ’70s. Not that I’m bragging on him or anything… much. (lol…))

    It would be very interesting indeed to see a chart comparing outcomes against the ratio of non-teaching academics to teaching/support personnel. For some reason I’m thinking a very interesting curve would develop…

  • boqueronman

    This issue of the current state of public education in the U.S. is an interesting one. While on the one hand, on average, more young people are being “educated” for longer, the capacity of the system to deliver the basics “readin’, writin’, ‘rithmetic” has attained levels best characterized as below sea level.

    Just take this as a reference point, the entrance exam required of prospective studets for acceptance at Jersey City high school. Here’s the link:

    http://schotlinepress.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/%E2%80%9Ccould-you-pass-the-1885-admission-test-for-high-school%E2%80%9D/

    Here is sample from the algebra section:

    Algebra

    I. Define Algebra, an algebraic expression, a polynomial. Make a literal trinomial.

    II. Write a homogeneous quadrinomial of the third degree. Express the cube root of 10ax in two ways.

    III. Find the sum and difference of 3x – 4ay + 7cd – 4xy + 16, and 10ay – 3x – 8xy + 7cd – 13.

    Are the students better served by the post modern education system? Yeah, right.

  • boqueronman

    This issue of the current state of public education in the U.S. is an interesting one. While on the one hand, on average, more young people are being “educated” for longer, the capacity of the system to deliver the basics “readin’, writin’, ‘rithmetic” has attained levels best characterized as below sea level.

    Just take this as a reference point, the entrance exam required of prospective studets for acceptance at Jersey City high school. Here’s the link:

    http://schotlinepress.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/%E2%80%9Ccould-you-pass-the-1885-admission-test-for-high-school%E2%80%9D/

    Here is sample from the algebra section:

    Algebra

    I. Define Algebra, an algebraic expression, a polynomial. Make a literal trinomial.

    II. Write a homogeneous quadrinomial of the third degree. Express the cube root of 10ax in two ways.

    III. Find the sum and difference of 3x – 4ay + 7cd – 4xy + 16, and 10ay – 3x – 8xy + 7cd – 13.

    Are the students better served by the post modern education system? Yeah, right.

  • ackwired

    Agree that schools need to be returned to local control. But I can’t see how creating a new bureaucracy to administer a voucher program by taking tax money from the public schools that each voucher would apply to and giving that tax money to the private school that each voucher applies to accomplishes that goal. It sounds like a very expensive “solution” that might ultimately result in federal control of the private schools.

    • jim_m

      I would counter that for the last 3 decades we have increased dramatically the money spent per student in public schools but have received nothing in terms of academic improvement. If additional money doesn’t result in improved performance then reducing that money should not necessitate a reduction in performance.

      Of course, if the schools choose to get rid of teachers and keep all their administrators and counselors then yeah, we will see decline, but that will be by choice of the educational establishment.

      • ackwired

        I don’t see anything here counter to what I said, nor do I see anything that I disagree with.

    • Ken in Camarillo

      You can wave your arms and say what seems would happen, but the wise thing is to learn from what HAS happened. In contrast to our high schools which are not highly regarded, there are a multitude of schools in the USA that are highly regarded; enough that people come from around the world to attend. These schools are in a free market system where students choose the best school that they can afford with their available money (and some student aid). This free market system operates very similarly to a voucher system. The schools I refer to are the colleges and universities of the USA.

      • ackwired

        Well, let’s learn from what has happened. The Feds always have built a bureaucracy to administer a new program, and one requiring transferring tax money from one local school to another would be impossible to administer without a new bureaucracy. Federal involvement has virtually always resulted in federal control. I’m afraid I just don’t see competition nor the free market in your voucher system.

        • Ken in Camarillo

          I am completely against a FEDERAL voucher program (except in Washington DC). Reading the Constitution carefully, it does not enumerate a federal power involving education, meaning it is un-Constitutional for the feds to be wielding any power in the education system except in Washington DC, which they must administer. (I know, too late).

          So the strongest reason to oppose Common Core is that it is an un-Constitutional use of federal power.

          • ackwired

            Thanks for the clarification, Ken.

      • jim_m

        People come to the US because you can ALWAYS find a college who will accept you. The same is not true overseas. It isn’t necessarily the quality of the education (although I will agree there are still some excellent universities who have not had their entire faculty and curriculum degraded by idiotic leftists) but the access to it that attracts most foreign students.

        • Ken in Camarillo

          Valid point. I still think the contrast between our K-12 vs our colleges is instructive.

  • Ken in Camarillo

    This student is probably correct in opposing common core, but using the wrong arguments to oppose it. He sounds like the educational community in claiming that performance cannot be objectively measured, just as the accountability dodging personnel in the system constantly claim.

    It would be quite doable to use statistical analyses to find out who the best teachers are, objectively. By keeping track of the performance of students throughout the years of their education, it could be deduced which teachers cause the greatest academic progress in their students. To do this would require consistency in the assessment system, something the education community relentlessly sabotages by always claiming that the assessment system must be changed to “improve” it. This call for change occurs every 3 years or so. By constantly changing the assessment system, they degrade the ability to do longitudinal studies on student performance (longitudinal: a little edu-speak lingo there meaning performance change as the student moves through the grade levels).

    I saw this first hand when I served a term as a school board member in a California unified school district where I used to live.

    edit: the strongest reason to oppose Common Core is that it is an un-Constitutional use of federal power. Education is not an enumerated power of the federal government.

    • jim_m

      We don’t need any statistical analysis. The vast majority of the working world gets evaluated based on a primarily subjective appraisal of performance. Teachers should be no different. The job of a Principal is to evaluate his teachers and promote those who do well.It is the job of the School Board to do the same for the Principal.

      Job performance is not that difficult to evaluate if the person who is doing it is just a little engaged.

      • Ken in Camarillo

        I think you are correct, except for the ugly culture in public education. The organizational politics are horrendous, so it is easy for someone to get the short end of the stick due to difference of opinion not related to classroom teaching.

        A good statistical system could be used to decide whether a teacher gets a modifier of up to +/- 5% of their nominal salary from the salary table. To avoid “flukes” the modifier could only be adjusted by a max of 2% each year (ie. +1% could be adjusted up to +3% max in one year). It would have to be a zero sum game, unless the school board allowed play in the budget to accommodate an increase in the total for teacher’s salaries.

        Currently there is no merit component to teachers salaries, so only the teacher’s self respect and standards can cause them to strive to excell. There are a lot who do strive to excell, but too many who do not.

        • jim_m

          Organizational politics suck just about everywhere you look. Perhaps teachers should get a dose of the real world.

          • Ken in Camarillo

            My engineering career has been completely in private sector companies, about 6, and only one company was in the same class as public education for having a terrible organization culture. No one should have to put up with it.

            Now that I think about it, the customers of the company with a bad culture were all government agencies. Maybe it’s something about government organizations.

          • jim_m

            I would say that it is probably more likely to occur in government organizations since they are ones where it is virtually impossible to lose your job for performance reasons. This tends to lead to the creation of little bureaucratic fiefdoms where petty tyrants get to rule and give their lives meaning by screwing with other people.