Thousands of parents have chosen to let their kids opt out of Common Core testing all across the country, concerned with the standards, the assessments, and the nationalization of education. It appears that these opt-outs have fallen under the watchful eye of the Obama administration, and they are no longer willing to stand idly by and watch American parents foil their carefully-laid plans.
In Chicago this week for a Q & A session, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that these opt-outs were unacceptable. Asked about parents choosing to boycott the tests – nearly 200,000 in New York alone – Duncan said that if state governments did not stamp out this dissent, the feds would step in. While he declined to say exactly how the federal government would force students to take these tests, there are a number of options available. The easiest route might be to follow the school lunch blueprint and punish schools and districts by withholding federal funds.
That would also fall right in line with the broader strategy of federal school standards, where succeeding schools – succeeding according to the highly questionable assessments, anyway – are rewarded with money and the failing schools are punished with poverty. As if that makes any sense.
But then, nothing about Common Core makes much sense when you drill beneath the surface. Why are business consultants for major corporations in charge of developing educational standards for the country? Why have so many prominent, respected teachers come out against these assessments, insisting that they bear little relevance to what we know about childhood education and development? Why are the teaching strategies so foreign and complex that they leave even experts scratching their heads in puzzled confusion?
Duncan perhaps played his hand a little too broadly when signaling a federal punishment system. The truth is that no such threats are necessary. By fixing college-entrance exams to bring them in line with Common Core standards, the Obama administration has managed to make dissent impossible. Any parent who wants their kid to go to college will have to submit before this unstoppable behemoth. And because the feds hold the purse strings, districts will be forced to punish those kids whose parents draw a line in the sand.
Perhaps it’s not worth getting worked up over. If you are a parent or a teacher, then yes, you have every reason to be concerned. But otherwise, rest assured that Common Core will be but a memory in another decade. A new politician will come along with another bright idea, and we’ll be off to the races again with a new program. We seem doomed to repeat this pattern over and over again, always looking for the magic solution. And every time, it gets a little more federalized. A little more agenda-driven. A little more political and a little less objective. And yet, the problems are only getting worse.
Maybe if we give Washington another 30 years, they’ll figure it out.