"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ALEC Bails on Opposing Common Core

Ed Week reported that ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) has voted not to adopt the resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards.
The latest news is that on Nov. 19, after several discussions over the past year and at least one postponed vote, ALEC's legislative board of directors has voted  not to adopt the resolution opposing the Common Core, the group announced in an email. ALEC stated that it will remain "neutral" on the common core, "but will continue to oppose any efforts by the federal government to mandate curriculum."
Given that each state is in a slightly different position with Common Core, (what role they play in the consortia, by what mechanism they agreed to adopt Common Core Standards, how much superintendents bought in to implementation etc.) it is not completely surprising that ALEC could not find common ground among legislators as to what position to take.

They do seem to have brushed aside the  biggest point for opposition,
On one side of the debate that went back and forth at ALEC were officials like Indiana Superintendent of Schools Tony Bennett and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Republicans who said the standards are not a federal K-12 takeover but an important way for schools to raise the bar for students. On the other side were policy mavens at places like the Pioneer Institute, the Boston-based think tank, who said that in addition to the political problems the common core posed, the standards themselves did not deliver as advertised in areas like college readiness. As you might expect, the Pioneer Institute was very keen on emphasizing the idea that Bennett's support for the common core was a big contributor to his defeat in the Nov. 6 election, when he lost to Democrat Glenda Ritz.
Stating that the standards are merely a tool for schools to raise the bar contains many underlying assumptions that most opponents of Common Core would not agree with.

The first is that there is a widespread educational crisis in all 50 states that requires immediate remediation. The truth is the majority of schools still turn out high functioning graduates. One need merely look at the increasing enrollment at our top colleges for proof. Unless the likes of Harvard, MIT and Princeton have dropped their standards, we are not doing a horrible job with k-12. We have pockets of underperformance who aren't cutting it with the current standards. Turning those schools on their heads with a completely new set of standards for the teachers to master while requiring these poorer districts to find the funding for the hardware necessary to administer the assessments hardly seems like a recipe for success.

The second is that outside intervention is the only way states would raise the academic bar. The picture it paints is a bunch of State Education Boards wringing their hands and saying, "We give up. If only someone would just tell us what a good set of standards looks like because we have no idea how to find or develop one ourselves." Does anyone remember a line of state superintendents lined up outside the DoEd demanding help with their standards?

The third assumption is that the standards are the only thing objectionable about Common Core. A key component of the standards is the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) which will collect data on every student enrolled in a public school. It has been said by some that the CCSS were merely a mechanism to get the SLDS instituted and standardized in each state. Again, I don't recall congressional hearings wherein the states demanded that the federal government find some way to track several hundred data points on their citizens.

ALEC stated that their failure to pass a resolution against Common Core is by no means a statement in support of them. This decision merely highlights the limitations of ALEC. It's voting members are state legislators, who "of course have to think about polls as well as white papers." Work will need to be done individually in the states to address Common Core. And so it is.

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