The Federal Government’s role in developing the Common Core curricula expands with the announcement of a new review panel.

This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Thursday, April 4.

Lured by the promise of increased federal funding in exchange for signing up, nearly every state in the nation has now adopted the national Common Core Standards. At last count, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the approach in English/language arts. 45 states and DC have done it in math.

Common CoreSo who is being standoffish?  The language arts standard only state is Minnesota. Saying ‘no thanks’ to any of it: Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia.  All the other states are “in.”

Two things seem to be happening.  Common Core is marking forward, and skeptics are becoming more vociferous in a rearguard action.

The skeptics insist that the whole common core effort focuses far too much on uniformity, in an era when school choice and online learning are fostering innovation and niche pedagogy that is becoming increasingly varied, even from child to child.  There’s also the issue of who will control the standard going forward, and might the interests of that controlling force be co-opted, since billions of dollars could potentially be made on one national curriculum change.  For example, could a particular textbook or technology company curry favor with the state consortia, or the Feds?

Neal McCluskeyA different risk: that the direct education establishment, teacher and administrators unions, could exert a different kind of pressure: in this case to water down the standards.  Neal McCluskey is with the Cato Institute.

If you do this through government, the reality is they’re going to end up hollowed out.  And it’s because the people who are the most motivated to be involved in education politics are the employees, the people employed in the education system.  They’re normal people, and what they would ideally like is what I’d ideally like, which is to get paid as much as possible and not have anyone telling me whether I’m doing a good or bad job.

And so what we’ll see with Common Core, even if these are good standards and tests to begin with, is that they’ll be hollowed out.

It’s important to understand that the Common Core Curricula had been developed by two state consortia with catchy titles, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the even pithier, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC.

The new development this week was that the U.S. Department of Education had created a 7-member board to oversee how the two state consortia were carrying out their work.  Another way the Common Core was being federalized, after it had been sold as a purely state-driven initiative. 

Of course the more centralized the standards become, the easier the potential acts of chicanery will become, which is why news of a federal review panel struck such a nerve with opponents.

According to Ed Week, the first meeting of the new Federal review process will take place within days. The meetings will not be public.

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