Bentsen: Why the Common Core tests are collapsing
Common Core is the latest in a series of failed federal education reforms. The goal was for individual states to adopt these national academic standards and tests.
Common Core math and English standards were released in 2010 and implemented by many states in 2014. However, of the states that have adopted and implemented the standards, 14 are downgrading their participation or withdrawing from national tests designed around those standards. Texas, Alaska, Nebraska and Virginia outright rejected the standards from the beginning. Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana and Ohio have withdrawn. Since adopting the standards, Massachusetts has suspended implementation of the standards, and other states are also taking steps to withdraw.
Two multistate testing groups — the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — received $360 million in taxpayer funds to create Common Core-compliant tests. But there are growing concerns over the program, such as the cost and classroom time consumed by state tests.
Conservative critics have argued that the initiative is another instance of federal overreach, attempting to exert federal control over the public school curriculum. This reasoning is understandable given the exhaustive examples of the Obama administration’s expansion of federal (largely executive) powers.
Some states have decided to use alternative tests and withdraw from the Smarter Balanced and PARCC programs. Kansas withdrew from the Smarter Balanced group and plans to use tests from the University of Kansas instead. Alaska has announced that it will do the same. Florida has withdrawn from PARCC and is looking at alternative testing options. Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma withdrew from the program in the summer of 2013. Pennsylvania plans to use its own tests.
Thirty-one states were members of SBAC when it was awarded Race to the Top dollars; now it has only 18 member states. PARCC started out with 25 states and the District of Colombia. It is now down to 11 and D.C. — with Arkansas, Mississippi and Ohio officially set to leave even that small group in 2016.
PARCC is possibly on the ropes in Massachusetts. Adding to the testing woes are massive student opt-outs in New York and, to a lesser extent in other states, and states falsely inflating testing results and school performance.
The backlash against Common Core has grown steadily since states first implemented the initiative, and now even teachers unions are withdrawing their support. Common Core is also losing public support. According to the latest Education Next poll, public support for Common Core dropped from 65 percent in 2013 to 49 percent in 2015. Among teachers, support for Common Core fell from 76 percent to 40 percent, with 50 percent now opposing.
Common Core’s relationship with the federal government is a result of President Obama’s Race to the Top initiatives. He awarded $4 billion in grants to 11 states that demonstrated dedication to education reform, including high-stakes testing and adopting standards such as Common Core. Now the president wants Congress to limit testing.
A one-size-fits-all national curriculum does not work for many students who require an individualized education. Students require specialized learning environments that are engaging to their unique interests. Students who are fully engaged in difficult subjects such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics have a much better chance to successfully develop skills for today’s workforce.
The push by the federal government for national standards has had negative effects on public education. K-12 schools divert their limited resources in vain attempts to push students (and their teachers) to reach the standards.
A universal national curriculum leaves too many students behind. A single higher standard fails struggling students and makes them a problem that ultimately the economy inherits. No matter how well the government makes plans to fund and operate a program properly, it will never meet the standard of success achieved by private, competing enterprises.
Lloyd M. Bentsen IV is the National Center for Policy Analysis senior research fellow covering a variety of topics that includes education reform. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.