PTA Implores Love for the Common Core. Why?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

Eric Hargis, Executive Director of the National PTA writes in Don’t Politicize the Common Core in edweek.org:

Unfortunately, like so many other issues, the Common Core State Standards are surrounded by myths and are being misrepresented for supposed political gain; the incredible value that the Standards provide to parents wanting to be fully engaged in their children’s education makes this all the more dangerous and could represent a huge loss to our education system in America.

Bashing anything done by the Federal Government, always a popular sport in America, has now reached Olympic class status, and there are those claiming that the Standards are a government take-over of education and call them “Common Core National Standards.” This isn’t even a Pinocchio stretch of the truth, but an out and out lie. The truth is, states are driving this process and have been involved at every level —  from the drafting and development stages through revisions and the final product.

In fact, states voluntarily adopted the Standards. States can even go above the content of the Standards by 15% to cover content that they feel is important but not currently a part of the Standards. Importantly, states and school districts still have autonomy in decisions made on how to teach the Standards in the classroom.

At the same time, as a parent, I will be assured quality and consistency in my children’s education regardless of where we live. While most all members of state and district education boards pursue only the highest of academic standards, one need only watch the television talk shows to hear what a few believe should be taught as science and history. Let’s keep them on the talk shows and out of our classrooms!

As we all know too well, business in Washington and in many states is driven by partisan politics. Despite the proven effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards, they have become an easy target for a bickering Congress, and divided state and local leaders. The American people are tired of the political games that are hurting our children. We want our government leaders to come together to ensure that our children receive a better education than we did. Those states that have still not adopted the standards for purely political reasons are doing their state’s students an incredible disservice.


Mr. Hargis’ contentions need to be addressed:

  • The states are not driving the process of Common Core standards.  It has been documented the standards are privately owned and copyrighted and states/schools/districts cannot alter the standards/assessments.
  • States “voluntarily” adopting the standards statement comes with a caveat.  If states did not adopt the standards, they were ineligible to gain a waiver from the NCLB goals. Describing this as a “voluntary” choice meant states jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  What kind of ” voluntary choice” is this really?
  • He is correct that states will be “allowed” to go above the mandated standards/assessments to deliver an extra 15% of material.  Why should there be mandates on schools/districts/states that “allow” teachers to teach a whopping 15% of the “allowed” material?  Is it even feasible to teach additional material when assessments may be scheduled every three weeks on the mandated 85%?
  • Bashing anything done by the Federal Government might just hold important validity.  Federal Spending has skyrockted 190% in four decades and test results have flatlined.  This is not a ringing endorsement of the Federal Government’s involvement in education, which is a state’s responsibility.  The Federal Government certainly has its hands in the CCSS mandates as it funded the consortia via Stimulus funding.
  • Mr. Hargis is simply making up fact when he states “despite the proven effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards”….these standards are in reality unproven and untested.  They have never been implemented in small studies to determine their effectiveness.
  • States pushing back on Common Core standards (such as my state, Missouri) are in fact, doing their state a great service by demanding back local control (and cost) of standards and assessments for their students.  Perhaps Mr. Hargis sees it as a political tug of war.  Many of us prefer to see it as the reclamation of state authority to provide educational direction for students and a voice for local districts in the most effective way to educate their community’s children.
  • Mr. Hargis writes: “While most all members of state and district education boards pursue only the highest of academic standards, one need only watch the television talk shows to hear what a few believe should be taught as science and history. Let’s keep them on the talk shows and out of our classrooms!” Question: Who SHOULD decide what should be taught as science and history?  Should this be assigned to private trade organizations who copyrighted the standards/assessments that states/districts/schools cannot alter and taxpayers cannot change even though tax dollars have paid for them?

Mr. Hargis believes this is a parental involvement issue and will help parents become more involved in educational decisions.  That’s an interesting viewpoint.  Parents are discovering objectionable material being taught to their children and the school can only shrug its shoulders and say “sorry”.  It’s mandated by the Common Core standards.

Why would Mr. Hargis come out with such an article imploring that we all love the Common Core standards when many of his claims cannot be proven or are just flat out wrong?  Could it be that the National PTA accepted a lot of money from CCSS proponents?  From Red Flags, National PTA, and Common Core Standards at susanohanian.org:

Clearly the Gates Foundation has added to this bucket of money by giving the PTA a million dollars to use in promoting the standards.

You can read all about the numerous red flags in the 2009 article.  The author, Niki Hayes, writes:

An immediate red flag appears, for example, because the PTA jumped onto the CCSSI bandwagon in September 2009—before the public input period was completed that ran from mid-September to mid-October. Ideas, questions, and concerns “from the field” of those who would have to live and work with these standards were not considered by the PTA’s leadership before they made this big leap with an incomplete product.

With all due respect to Mr. Hargis, a million dollar contribution from Mr. Gates does not make the standards any more than what they are: centralized, federally supported/funded, unproven, untested and an incomplete product (3 years in the making) of expensive theories and plans to make education reformers wealthy. Opponents are not “politicizing” the Common Core standards, they are just asking for data to prove their effectiveness and questioning the legality for these private/public partnerships to decide how communities pay for and provide educational services to students.

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