Wendy Lecker, fellow pro-public education advocate and commentator, has a stunningly profound piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and in other Hearst Media newspapers about the new Common Core standards and their inappropriateness for Connecticut.
Andrea Conway, a fellow pro-public education warrior here in Connecticut read the piece and observed “This is the absolute BEST explanation of what is wrong with Common Core and the money making reasoning of its creators.”
Andrea is absolutely right. Read Wendy’s piece and you’ll understand just how badly our elected officials have done when it comes to Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and school.
The Common Core State Standards, national standards adopted by Connecticut in 2010, promise to reflect “the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
This promise alone raises questions: Which colleges: Community? Non-selective? Selective? And which careers: Plumber? Beautician? Hedge fund manager? Physicist? Can one set of standards really encompass this wide spectrum of education and work?
There is an even more fundamental and pressing question, though: Is “college-and-career-ready” an adequate standard, as measured by Connecticut’s constitution? The answer is a resounding “no.” In the pending school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled that our constitution “guarantees Connecticut’s public school students educational standards and resources suitable to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”
The drafters of the Common Core ignored Connecticut’s primary goal for public education: capable participation in democratic institutions. Sources involved in the Common Core’s development process confirm that citizenship was never the focus. In fact, the Common Core’s foundational document mentions “economy” more than 100 times, while the word “citizen” appears only once — in a footnote.
Ironically, although the sole focus of the Common Core was the ability to compete in the global marketplace, the most serious threat to our national and global economy is our government’s current dysfunction. The recent government shutdown cost the nation $24 billion and 120,000 jobs. The International Monetary Fund warns that if Congress cannot agree to raise the debt ceiling, the world might plunge into another recession.
Given the failure of our democratic institutions, our most urgent goal should be to ensure that our children learn the lessons of democracy. Yet the architects of the Common Core disregarded this fundamental purpose of public education.
Perhaps if the Common Core standards were developed in a democratic fashion in our state, Connecticut’s goals would have been considered.
From their inception, the drafting and adoption of Connecticut academic standards was an inclusive, public process. The State Department of Education invited teachers from across the state to collectively draft standards in their areas of expertise. SDE would then solicit public comment from all sectors, including parents, teachers, school administrators, superintendents and school boards. There could be as many as 50 iterations, and the process could take as long as three years.
Since this process was directed by a state agency, it was subject to open meeting and Freedom of Information laws. The product was an educational framework that was created by Connecticut educators with input from everyone connected to our public schools.
The Common Core State Standards, by contrast, were developed behind closed doors by two private, non-governmental organizations: the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. There was no public comment. The organizations even refused to release the drafters’ names until there was public outcry. The entire development process remains shrouded in secrecy. NGA and CCSSO are not subject to any sunshine laws that governmental bodies must obey.
The members of Common Core validation committee were required to sign confidentiality agreements. This committee was ostensibly charged with ensuring that these standards that were about to be used in schools across America were valid. It is shocking that the public would be prevented from knowing what this committee discussed.
When the standards finally reached Connecticut in 2010, they were presented as a fait accompli to state officials, who were given two months to adopt them — under threat of being disqualified from federal Race to the Top money if they failed to do so. Rather than question the inadequacy of these standards as measured against Connecticut’s constitutional requirements, the State Board of Education, here in “the Constitution State,” acquiesced to federal pressure and adopted these substandard standards; just months after the Connecticut Supreme Court decision in CCJEF v. Rell.
The Common Core State Standards were developed in a rushed and undemocratic process, far from Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, and officials. It is no wonder, then, that the standards themselves do not reflect Connecticut’s values or constitutional mandates.
At a time when the biggest threat to our economy and society is the glaring lack of governing skills by our leaders, our duty is to ensure that our children are able to function in a democratic society. Sadly, we cannot count on the Common Core State Standards, which fail to fulfill Connecticut’s basic constitutional requirements, to help us meet this challenge.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center.
You can read Wendy’s commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Common-Core-fails-to-meet-constitutional-4947484.php#