Note: Following is the second in a number of stories to appear in IdahoReporter.com during the coming weeks examining the Common Core K-12 academic standards. Future stories, for example, will discuss the private funding that has been driving the Common Core initiative, pros and cons of establishing national standards, the anticipated costs to the state for implementing Common Core standards, why some states are choosing to adopt the standards while a few others are not, why some states are rethinking their support for the standards and how the standards are being implemented in classrooms.
In this second of a multi-part series, IdahoReporter.com interviews an opponent of the Common Care standards being implemented in Idaho. The first story, published on April 29, identified pros and cons of three of the most common claims about Common Core.
As the fall 2013 deadline draws closer for Idaho public schools to implement the national Common Core academic standards, opposition to the initiative is emerging among parental groups around the state.
“We object to the Common Core agenda for three broad reasons,” said Stacey Knudsen, a member of Idahoans for Local Education (IFLE). A grassroots movement headquartered in Boise, IFLE claims to have supporters in Idaho Falls, Rigby and Coeur d’Alene. It also says that the Common Core academic standards diminish local control of public education.
“The Common Core standards are essentially untested, and that’s the first objection we have to this agenda,” Knudsen told IdahoReporter.com.
“Secondly,” said Knudsen, “we object to the imposition of the so-called ‘high stakes tests,’ which essentially will replace our ISAT tests (Idaho Standards Achievement Tests).”
Knudsen also said that the consortium of states that adopt Common Core will also begin to craft curriculum for implementation in the nation’s schools, and she cites this as her group’s third objection. “This is the most alarming aspect of it for me” she stated. “The consortium of the states, all operating under the U.S. Department of Education, will have the power to craft curriculum, instead of locally elected school board members making these decisions. This should be a concern for all parents in Idaho. Elected school board members are beholden to their voters, yet we can barely speak with, let alone un-elect, the U.S. Department of Education.”
Common Core, officially named the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is a set of academic standards that students in the various grade levels are expected to achieve. Officially sponsored by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the beginnings of the effort were led by state school superintendents who proposed standards that all of the 50 states could adopt.
The effort to get all 50 states to adopt the standards officially began in 2009. In 2011 the education committees of both the Idaho House of Representatives and the Senate, along with the Idaho Board of Education, agreed that Idaho would officially join the movement.
Idaho State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is one supporter of the Common Core standards who has nonetheless expressed concerns about the Obama administration’s disposition toward it.
“Superintendent Luna always has concerns when the federal government tries to take credit for what the states have accomplished,” Luna spokesperson McGrath told IdahoReporter.com, noting that during the last election cycle, Obama repeatedly claimed in his campaign speeches that he and his administration had brought uniformity to public education around the country. The president also asserted this claim in his State of the Union address in January of this year.
Luna has maintained that if the federal government seeks to misuse Common Core as a means of exercising undue control over Idaho’s schools, the state will back out of the initiative.
Knudsen, however, says this will not be easily done. “According to the agreements signed by Superintendent Luna and Gov. Otter, Idaho will need to get the approval of the U.S. Department of Education and all the other states in the consortium before we can get out of this,” she told IdahoReporter.com. “It can be done, but it’s going to be a long and complex process, and we should start now.”
In January of this year, IFLE founder Stephanie Zimmerman testified about the Common Core initiative before the Idaho House Education Committee, noting at the time that “this (Common Core) will do to education in Idaho what Obamacare is doing to health care in Idaho.”
After hearing Zimmerman’s concerns, Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, noted that “I voted for the Common Core standards, but I agree that we have to watch these things very carefully. More innovation comes from a de-centralized system, rather than a centralized system. Let’s watch this very carefully and not move toward a national curriculum.”