How is Common Core like Obamacare?

Conservatives in Utah and around the country laughed to scorn then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for suggesting, after passage of “Obamacare,” that Congress had to pass the bill so that the people could then find out what was actually in it.

As it turns out, this strategy hits a bit closer to home.

The adoption of Common Core by the Utah State Board of Education followed a similar model of act-now-ask-questions-later. In June 2010, the Board voted to “adopt the Common Core… as a framework on first reading [and] between now and the next meeting the Board Members study the standards…” Put differently, the Board gave initial approval of the new (and untested) standards, pending further approval, without having studied them first.

But it gets worse.

In its “Complete Resource Guide on Utah’s Core Standards,” the Board seeks to rebut statements made by Dr. Sandra Stotsky to the Utah legislature in August 2012 regarding Common Core. Stotsky was asked to become a member of the Common Core Validation Committee—a committee she later charged as existing only for “window dressing” of pre-determined standards compiled by non-experts in the field. Sworn to secrecy and then “ignored,” Stotsky refused to sign off on Common Core, explaining that the standards “do not reflect the core knowledge needed for authentic college-level work and do not frame the literary and cultural knowledge one would expect of graduates from an American high school.”

Her message was essentially the same to Utah legislators in the August 2012 meeting; over and over again, Stotsky challenged the Common Core standards for not being compiled based on research and evidence of successful standards practices.

In response, the Board solicited input from two other education professionals they referred to as “internationally recognized literacy and reading scholars” and submitted this competing testimony to the same legislative committee. In those remarks, which the Board included in its “Complete Resource Guide,” we read the following response to Stotsky’s assertion that “Common Core’s standards for English language arts are neither research-based nor internationally benchmarked”:

This assertion, too, is incorrect. The effect of implementing standards cannot be researched before they have been implemented. They must be implemented first before we can conduct research on their effectiveness. The same was true of the Utah English Language Arts Standards. They were not researched until after they had been implemented in Utah schools. [Emphasis in the original.]

By including and endorsing these remarks, the educrats in charge of educating hundreds of thousands of children have all but admitted that they are flying blind, unable to research the standards they cheerfully endorse (along with the associated assessments, data tracking, etc.) until they are fully implemented (and thus entrenched). Put differently, children attending government schools throughout the state have been turned into guinea pigs, subjected to pedagogical experimentation without their knowledge or consent. (It’s logical to assume that most parents would expect the standards being enforced upon their children and their teachers to have some research and evidence of success backing them up.)

Reasonable minds would suggest pilot testing such a far-reaching (and costly) program, whether in a single school, district, or state. Instead, the Board rushed Utah’s adoption of Common Core in hopes of obtaining a federal “Race to the Top” grant. In an effort to further feed at the federal trough, the all-but-appointed Board of Education threw caution to the wind and dove in head first. The children of Utah will be paying the price.