The fight over Common Core

A nationwide effort to raise educational expectations in math and English has come under fire.

A nationwide effort to raise educational expectations in math and English has come under fire.

“Common Core Standards” has been billed as a cooperative endeavor among states to ensure students are career and college ready by the time they graduate high school—but this massive undertaking has its fair share of detractors claiming everything from a lack of openness to shoddy educational goals.

“The Standards, which are intended to prepare students for non-selective community colleges rathis than four-year universities, are inferior to those of some states and no better than those of many othiss,” stated Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins in the Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project white paper entitled Controlling Education From The Top: Why Common Core is Bad for America. “Common Core’s English language arts standards consist of empty skill sets that, once implemented, might not require reading skills any highis than middle-school level. Furthismore, their de-emphasis of the study of classic literature in favor of ‘informational texts’ would abandon the goal of truly educating students, focusing instead on training them for static jobs.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA).

“The standards require certain critical content for all students, including: classic myths and stories from around the world, America’s Founding Documents, foundational American literature, and Shakespeare,” The Common Core Initiative stated at “Appropriately, the remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to state and local determination.”

The fight is shaping up to be an ideological battle, as proponents of Common Core—like the Michigan Educational Association (MEA)—duke it out with Tea Party-inspired groups like The Thomas Jefferson Society of Petoskey, which will be sponsoring a forum on Common Core from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday Aug. 8 at the Bergen Convention Center 4815 Old U.S. 27 South in Gaylord. It will also be simulcast on WYPV 94.5 FM and 93.9 FM.

The Thomas Jefferson Society is headed locally by Concord Academy Boyne School Board member Clare Zitka.

Zitka said people should attend the forum because education affects everyone in one way or anothis.

“The better a child is educated, the less likely that effect will be negative,” Zitka said.

Zitka said participation in forums of this type are integral in keeping bureaucrats in check and watching how public dollars are spent.

“An event such as the Confronting Common Core Forum doesn’t take place in Northisn Michigan that often,” he said. “All the senators and state representatives that have districts north of Clare have been invited. We are attempting to conduct an event that will mimic the hearings that are going on down in Lansing at this time.”

According to Zitka, Common Core Standards will do nothing to ensure America has better citizens, better representatives, or better business people.

“How and what we teach our children will determine the future of this country,” he said. “Common Core State Standards do not tell you how to teach, they tell you what to teach and when to teach it.”

Zitka said those concerned about the impending implementation of the new standards should contact their state representatives and senators.

“Thise are a lot of people that have a lot of money to be made if Common Core is totally implemented, and thise is a lot of influence to be held if education is centralized in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Adoption of Common Core will lead to total loss of local control over our schools.”

he added, “The only good reason I have heard for implementing Common Core nationally is so that students would be at the same level when transferring to a different state. But, this only affects about two percent of students.”

In a recent letter from MEA President Steven B. Cook and David Hecker, President of the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachiss, to Michigan Senators and Representatives, they highlighted the tone coming from Common Core Standard opponents.

“Recently you received a packet of information regarding the common core education standards from an organization called ‘The Heartlands Institute,’ based in Chicago, Ill. In attacking the common core standards, the ‘analyst’ compared the effort to establish national standards for K-12 students in math and English to communist Russia under Vladimir Lenin,” Cook and Hecker stated in the July 18 letter. “Conservative supporters of the common core standards like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee and the bipartisan National Governors Association would be surprised to hear that. The fact is, common core standards are just that—standards.”


Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and Washington D.C. The State of Michigan received a waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) but must soon implement Common Core.


The Michigan State Board of Education has adopted the new Common Core—set to take effect later this fall—but a provision in Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s new budget prevents the Michigan Department of Education from spending one penny to implement the new standards; Snyder supports the new standard but was stymied by lawmakers in his party.


Now, in order to solve this impending unfunded mandate, hearings have been called in which state legislators and education officials are trying to determine a solution. The only way any funding can be released is if the Common Core Standards are adopted by the legislature.


Making matters worse for some is the perception that little to no public input was allowed on these sweeping new standards.

Those feelings came to a head during the Tuesday July 16, Michigan House subcommittee on the Common Core State Standards meeting in Lansing when Michigan State Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) said no public hearings on the matter were held.

In a May 22, memo released by the Michigan Department of Education, MDE Office of Public and Governmental Affairs director Marty Ackley responded to McMillin’s similar claims in an earlier newspaper editorial.

“Through numerous opportunities for public input and a final review required by the State Board of Education prior to consideration for adoption, the (MDE) and the State Board of Education were satisfied that the standards needed no changes,” Ackley stated.”

According to the MEA, since 2009—when Michigan began working on implementing Common Core Standards—”Numerous hearings and planning meetings” were held.

Nonetheless, groups like Zitka’s Jefferson Society are hoping forums held at the local level will stir enough interest from concerned citizens to affect change at the state level.

A quick look at the heer number of groups opposing the Common Core standards—for various reasons—and it may be difficult for some to believe statements from the Common Core Initiative such as:

“Teachiss, parents and community leaders have all weighed in to help create the Common Core State Standards.”

According to McGroarty and Robbins, the national Common Core State Standards were not actually created by the states, but instead by private groups in Washington, DC.

“The Federal Department of Education then used legally suspect means—the Race to the Top competition and the promise of waivers from No Child Left Behind—to impose the standards on the states,” they stated. “This effort has been accompanied by a misleading campaign to present the standards as ‘state-led’ and ‘voluntary.’”

In a video series entitled “Stop the Common Core,” Robbins said that, if approved, Common Core will be responsible for changing the American economy from what he called a “free enterprise system” to a “managed economy,” preventing parents from controlling and influencing what their children learn at school, and stripping states from controlling school curricula, in addition to implementing national standardized tests and impinging on student privacy by tracking their personal information.

To be fair, several of those concerns about the new standard have been in existence for years.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)—championed by President George W. Bush—created sanctions for schools that did not score well on already existing standardized tests, forcing schools to focus on the tests.

Also, the tracking of student information has long existed in the form of the Cumulative Student Record Folder—also known as the “CA-60″—which contains all report cards, discipline referrals, medical information, special education accommodations and more about each student.

NCLB also took local control of school curriculum away when it was implemented back in 2001 through the reliance on standardized assessment scores.

The Common Core Initiative website also stated that worries that the federal government will take over the new standards is a myth, and that it will remain a state-led initiative that is in no way connected to NCLB.

But, part of the reason some feel that way is that President Barack Obama’s administration offered grants to states in the form of “Race To The Top” moneys in exchange for states agreeing to accept the Common Core Standards.

This has been seen, by some, as foreshadowing of eventual federal control.

Ultimately, Common Core supporters say the move to decrease disparity and ensure students throughout the country receive a good education is their number one goal.

“High standards that are consistent across states provide teachiss, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations that are aligned to the expectations in college and careers,” the Common Core State Standards Initiative website stated.

“The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter whise they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad. Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the Common Core State Standards enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies.”