Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Common Core for Dummies

For my English Comp 2 class, I chose Common Core for one of the two major research papers.  This paper was actually pretty fun to research, because it was about education in Oklahoma.  I already knew, after moving here and seeing the step-daughter's school system is one of the worst school systems I have ever personally seen....

The fact is, Oklahoma ranks extremely low in its education and it shows.  If something isn't done to fix this runaway state government, we'll find that Oklahoma will be dragging the entire state down into the abyss of uneducation....  Anyways, here's the research paper, hope you enjoy it!

According to Ballotpedia, “The Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English-language arts and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school.”  It was assembled in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with the intent of college and career readiness (Common Core State Standards Initiative).  No matter what anyone has to say on the issue of Common Core, essentially everyone agrees that the U.S. needs a better education system.  Nowhere is that more apparent than Oklahoma.

In the 2015 report from the Education Week Research Center that tracks the entire nation and grades all the key statistics, we can see exactly how Oklahoma stacks up to the rest of the nation.  Honestly, the stats themselves do nothing but damn Oklahoma’s education standards.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel and every single stat is disheartening to say the least.  The stats, though, in a way show one of the things going on in the state, such as the state being ranked 48th in family income and 44th in parent education (Oklahoma Earns a D-Plus on State Report Card, Ranks 48th in Nation).  To save the state, something important obviously needs to happen.

Remember that ranking of 44th in parent education for a moment.  One of the arguments put forth in the Oklahoma House Rules Committee pointed towards schools not being able to select different textbooks, outside of the standard curriculum textbooks.  One blogger honestly said it was that reason that she became a homeschooling mom (Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal in Oklahoma Isn't).  In fact, one of the arguments against Common Core was that the federal government was trying to take over public schools (Turner).

The fight over Common Core in Oklahoma was more political than anything else and it got ugly with the teachers and students being left out in the cold, literally.  Cory Turner, a reporter at NPR, used the image of the hundreds of students and educators standing outside of the Capitol in Oklahoma City, huddling in blankets, for the Christmas tree lighting before quoting Steve Glenn, a high school principle.  "We didn't oppose the Core, I mean, we were ready for the change, and then it didn't change. And now we're back. Stick with something; let's go with it. Tell us what we need to do, and we're ready to do it" (Turner).

And Oklahoma did say what to do . . . nothing.  They voted to repeal Common Core, hands down, and with that, Govenor Mary Fallin confidently said, “We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than the Common Core.”  What they replaced Common Core with were the standards they had before.  The Priority Academic Students Skills, or PASS, was developed in the late 1990s, and was not validated by Oklahoma’s own universities (Marchitello).  Because of this, Oklahoma then had to fight for the money from the government they so vilified to begin with.  It would have cost the state as much as $165 million.  Luckily, Oklahoma was able to gain its flexibility waiver, which exempted the state from requiring all students to meet or exceed the state’s proficiency level, of which only 160 schools out of 1800 did (Paxton).  As it stands, Oklahoma has until 2016 to develop new standards that will be subject to legislative review (Public Education in Oklahoma).

In Mississippi, the fight over Common Core rages ever on.  However, their law makers are taking a more proactive approach.  One of the biggest anti-Common Core State Senators notes that parts of the initiative are worth defending.  The parts that are not worth defending can be replaced with out-of-state standards, such as English standards from California and Math standards from Massachusetts, both of which ranked higher than Common Core itself (Coz).  Mississippi actually ranks lower than Oklahoma on the same Education Week Research Center report, coming in at the lowest rank of 51st.  Yet oddly, the state ranks in the top ten with their standards (Northway).  It shows the willingness to try, unlike Oklahoma which took the huge step backwards.

Common Core itself is a great concept.  The idea to have a standardized education across the nation so that no one state is worse than any other can only be described as brilliant.  The sheer fact that no one really attacks the standards themselves as being weak partly points to what the real issue is, politics.  No matter how much it is currently failing, Oklahoma was vehement that the federal government should not be involved in their state procedures, putting “more power into the hands of federal bureaucrats who want to control everything from D.C.” (BREAKING: Oklahoma Overwhelmingly Repeals Common Core).  Some people who are against Common Core even lump the amazingly philanthropic Bill Gates into the “evils” considering he gave Tulsa Public Schools a large grant for creating “College and Career Readiness” (Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal in Oklahoma Isn't).

Since when did preparing students for college and careers become such a horrible term?  Common Core mainly focuses on Math and English, creating standards that, at face value, show great concepts that students need to learn, such as speaking and listening, keyboarding, making sense of problems and perseverance in solving them, and constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others (Common Core State Standards Initiative).  Even the ACT and SAT have been redesigned to fit in with what is taught through Common Core (Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal in Oklahoma Isn't).  Standardized curriculum for a test that has been standardized for a very long time.

The fact is, education has been broken for a very long time and no one seems to get it more than those that drive the culture of the country, comedians.  George Carlin famously said that the “’owners of the country’ do not want a population capable of critical thinking, they want obedient workers.  People just smart enough to run machines and do the paperwork, yet dumb enough to accept what is truly going on” (Bonser).  Common Core does not go far enough to prepare people for college, but it is the only step available in the right direction, trying to get education across the U.S. on the same page.  It is a shame it does not work on arts and sciences, but a step in the right direction is at least a step in the right direction.

Oklahoma has never looked more ignorant as they have in these recent months with their treatment of education, and sadly it does not look to be getting any better anytime soon.  In their own press release on gaining the waiver for the 2014-15 school year, the state mentioned that it would probably reapply for the waive for the next school year (U.S. Department of Education restores Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver for remainder of school year).  This does nothing but put Oklahoma students on the backburner, and not getting them ready for a future that is rapidly coming.  How many Oklahoma students will graduate under standards made 25 years ago as the rest of the country moves forward?  Even the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education is quoted in that same press release, “While the (US Department of Education) decision certainly allows districts and schools to breathe a little easier, this reinstatement cannot be misinterpreted as a concession to low expectations, Oklahoma should forge ahead with creating stronger academic standards and shoring up a system of true accountability” (U.S. Department of Education restores Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver for remainder of school year).  But will they?      

           Works Cited
  • Bonser, Dan. "The Absence of Creativity in the Classroom is Killing the Future." 16 March 2015. A Brainless Nod. Web. 16 March 2015.
  • "BREAKING: Oklahoma Overwhelmingly Repeals Common Core." 24 May 2014. Conservative Tribune. Web. 25 April 2014.
  • "Common Core State Standards Initiative." n.d. BallotPedia. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • Coz, Emily Le. "Common Core foe says some standards OK, bill bans all." 26 February 2015. The Clarion-Ledger. Web. 25 April 2014.
  • Layton, Lyndsey. "Oklahoma wins back its No Child Left Behind waiver." 24 November 2014. The Washington Post. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • Marchitello, Max. "After Oklahoma Rejects Common Core, Replacement Standards Rejected For Failing To Prepare Students." 28 August 2014. ThinkProgress. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • Northway, Wally. "Report ranks state schools’ performance 51st in the nation." 9 January 2014. Mississippi Business Journal. Web. 29 April 2015.
  • "Oklahoma Academic Standards." 5 March 2015. Web. 20 March 2015.
  • "Oklahoma Earns a D-Plus on State Report Card, Ranks 48th in Nation." 2 January 2015. Education Week. Web. 2015 April 2015.
  • Paxton, Seth. "Oklahoma fights back after feds pull education funding over Common Core." 26 November 2014. Fox News. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • Porter, Caroline. "Oklahoma Denied Education Waiver." Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition 29 August 2014: A5. Article.
  • "Public Education in Oklahoma." 2015. BallotPedia. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • Robson, Nate. "State Ranks Among Worst in Education Outcomes Report." 7 January 2015. Oklahoma Watch. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • "Seven Reasons Why Common Core Repeal in Oklahoma Isn't." 22 October 2014. Restore Oklahoma Public Education. Web. 25 April 2015.
  • Turner, Cory. "Common Core Repeal, The Day After." 30 December 2014. nprEd. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • "U.S. Department of Education restores Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver for remainder of school year." 24 November 2014. Web. 20 April 2015.
  • Wallender, Jennifer. "The Common Core State Standards in American Public Education: Historical Underpinnings and Justifications." Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin 80.4 (Summer2014): 7-11. Article.
  • "What is Common Core?" n.d. Stand. Web. 20 April 2015.

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