Wyoming is having second thoughts about adopting Common Core education standards. Concerned with the federal strings that are beginning to appear, some state legislators are trying to put the brakes on official adoption of the centralized standards.
Wyoming State Representative Matt Teeters (R) asserted: “I’m not comfortable with the fact that we’re buying into something that might have ramifications. [There are] all kinds of unknowns in my mind, and I’m not settled.”
Last year the Common Core Initiative—headed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association—introduced a set of standards they’ve pushed for states to adopt. And the Obama Administration is in lockstep with the endeavor. Not only has the Administration championed the standards, but it has also continually used a carrot-and-stick approach to persuade states to sign on to the standards by offering incentives—and potentially requirements.
For example, the Administration’s competitive Race to the Top grant program made acceptance of the standards part of the scoring criteria. Furthermore, in the Administration’s latest misguided effort to grant waivers to states from the onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind (a significant executive overreach in its own right), states could be asked to sign on to common “college-and-career ready standards.” An innocuous-sounding phrase, “college-and-career-ready” is the preferred language of proponents of national standards and tests and now is used by the Obama Administration in its effort to establish more centralized control of curriculum.
The common core language is in the Obama Administration’s blueprint for reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. For example, to obtain Title 1 dollars—the largest single stream of federal education funding—states would be required to adopt the standards.
Beyond the increase of federal overreach, the financial burden associated with the implementation of national standards is no small concern. As Jay Matthews noted in The Washington Post recently, citing Professor Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas:
“To make standards meaningful they have to be integrated with changes in curriculum, assessment and pedagogy,” [Greene] says. “Changing all of that will take a ton of money.” The states don’t have it. The federal government can’t supply it at a time of budget-cutting. Even the Gates Foundation, Greene says, can’t foot such a large bill.
Every state should set high standards for its students. But the federal government should not be the one calling the shots. Rather than making schools more accountable to Washington, schools should be accountable to parents and taxpayers. States should strengthen their tests and increase transparency to allow families to know how a child’s school is performing. Likewise, families should have the power to act on that information with school choice policies, which allow parents to transfer students from underperforming schools. These types of state-led reforms, rather than another federal overreach, set the stage for greater academic success.
Wyoming is right to take issue with standards that would usurp its educational authority. For decades, the federal government’s influence on state education systems has been growing. The result has been increasing amounts of federal red tape for schools. National standards would mean even greater encroachment by Washington into the classroom.