A report prepared by Lindsey Tepe of the New America Foundation laments that colleges are not more on board with Common Core and urges them to join the in crowd who are cheering it on. Common Core Goes to College: Building Better Connections Between High School and Higher Education, is an analysis of state and institution policies within higher education including: the admissions process, financial aid qualification, testing and course placement, developmental education and teacher preparation. The report references the Chicago Pedway, a project meant to connect two buildings in the city via an underground tunnel that was started under both buildings. There came a critical moment when the two tunnels were supposed to meet, but they did not. This story of a engineering embarrassment for  a major city was meant as an analogy for what happened when common core was rolled out and the colleges it was meant to prepare everyone for were not immediately singing its praises. The report indicates that one of the tunnels needs to adjust in order to meet the other one and, spoiler alert,  it is not the tunnel of the standards writers.

The major problem with the analogy is that the story talks about a project that was started with a plan developed by both building’s management where the biggest problem was some directional miscalculations. Such could never be said of Common Core and higher education.  The only higher ed representatives at the development table for Common Core were colleges of education. And gee what a surprise the colleges of education are totally on board and have been teaching their latest graduates about common core and how to teach it. That’s why our newest teachers LOVE common core. Because it is all they know. The colleges that were part of the plan in building this supposed bridge between k-12 and higher ed did end up exactly where they were supposed to. Unfortunately, this bridge comes from the wrong building.

According to Inside Higher Ed, Debra Humphreys, vice president of public policy and public engagement for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said “many colleges and universities were supportive of the movement for national learning standards, but became less engaged when the effort “very quickly” pivoted to focus on standardized assessment of the implementation of those standards.”

Common Core is one part of an initiative, a plan that seeks to reform education by focusing on standardized tests and accountability, no matter how poor the former is and how irrelevant the latter is. This doubling down on what is already wrong with education has no chance of improving it. My own daughter confirms how broken education is. She said that teachers don’t really care what you know or whether you are interested in learning. All they care about is whether you do good on a test. They are programming children to select the “right” answer on a multiple choice test because at the end of the day, the end of the teacher’s evaluation, the end of the district’s accreditation application, that is all that matters and common core is just doing more of it.  It is merely an attempt to do the wrong things the “right” way.

Common Core is an effort to standardize k-12 education. There most certainly is a profit motive in such standardization. College readiness was merely used as a selling point, but it was never approved by the colleges, nor could it be. The math, if followed with fidelity, will leave students with critical gaps in Algebra I and II that will require remediation UNLESS the colleges change the direction of their tunnel and start making remedial courses credit bearing courses. All that is needed on their part to support common core is a change in definition of college ready. The creators of Common Core will also standardize college. Its demise will simply be collateral damage in a larger market driven profit scheme.

The other significant take away from the report is that we are witnessing a  battle of the titans, the testing titans to see who wins the largest market share. Tepe asserts that assessments aligned to Common Core could replace  existing college sorting tools like the ACT and SAT which they claim are inferior tools for identifying  college readiness, and they are.  It’s not about making sure people are prepared to go to college or even determining whether attending college is the right thing for an individual. Tepe does not even question the need for standardized testing. Of course we need and want it. Whether Building B really wants all the people who could use the pedway in it was never asked of Building B’s management. What’s important is who gets to control the tunnels.

Two hundred years ago our founders had an entirely different view of public education.  Jefferson wrote,

“I have indeed two great measures at heart, without which no republic can maintain itself in strength: 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom. 2. To divide every county into hundreds, of such size that all the children of each will be within reach of a central school in it.~Letter to John Tyler (1810)

How far we have drifted from being primarily concerned about how we will teach people to understand where our freedom comes from and how to protect it, to a system which removes everyone’s freedom (student, teacher, parent) in order to make them uniform and convenient for an all powerful government. We would do well to heed Jefferson’s recommendation for education and strip out the progressive’s social studies and global citizenship and reintroduce the subject of history.

“The reading in the first stage, where [the people] will receive their whole education, is proposed.. to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.~Notes on Virginia (1782)

Note: New America Foundation is heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and George Soros.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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