Common Core K-12 Hits Home
Defenders of home schooling are beginning to worry about the Common Core K-12 standards morphing into a national curriculum that will stifle the family-centered creativity that has fostered high rates of achievement and growth for home education.
Their concerns are well-founded, even though the official Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as originally adopted in 2010 don't expressly apply to home or private schools.
Unfortunately, many private and parochial schools, including those of 100 Roman Catholic dioceses across the nation, already are adopting the CCSS prescriptions for math and English classes as they start rolling out in public schools. Their debatable reasoning is that the rush of most state governments (45 so far) to embrace the national standards means publishers of textbooks and tests will fall in line, thereby leaving private schools with no practical alternatives for instructional materials.
The Home School Legal Defense Association sees an even more insidious intrusion on educational freedom stemming from the vaunted "college- and career-ready standards," and it most assuredly is not about to throw in the towel.
In a Dec. 17 web article, the HSLDA's federal-relations specialist, Will Estrada, noted that the "College Board – the entity that created the PSAT and SAT – has already indicated that its signature college entrance exam will be aligned with the CCSS. And many home-schoolers worry that colleges and universities may look askance at home school graduates who apply for admission if their high-school transcripts are not aligned with the CCSS."
Besides the potential of home-schoolers being placed at a severe disadvantage by the SAT's alignment with a single curriculum, "our greatest worry," Estrada concluded, "is that if the CCSS is fully adopted by all states, policymakers down the road will attempt to change state legislation to require all students – including home school and private school students – to be taught and tested according to the CCSS."
The linkage of the SAT to the nationally prescribed academic content is far more than a hypothetical threat. Former Rhodes Scholar David Coleman, a chief architect of the Common Core, embraced that very objective before taking over as the College Board president in October.
An Education Week report in October reached the surprising conclusion that religious schools are prominent among private institutions beginning to adopt the Common Core. Not all private schools are hopping on the bandwagon, of course. An official of the National Association of Independent Schools spoke of the centrality of "local control, school by school, of what to teach and how to teach" and emphasized that "decision-making through a national effort runs counter to our very being."
A middle-road approach is the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative by which educators from parochial schools and Catholic universities hope to develop ways Catholic values can be integrated into instruction based on the Common Core standards. A fair question to ask is how appealing such compromised schools will be to parents seeking to use tax credit scholarships or vouchers to find alternatives to government-controlled education.
One might think truly independent-minded educators would want to examine skeptically government-subsidized standards that already are compelling English teachers to cut out many of the classics of children's literature in favor of boilerplate text issued by government agencies. Because home-schoolers have had to fight continuously for their educational freedom, it really isn't surprising that they ultimately are the ones to see through the folly of education nationalization in a tremendously diverse country, and to identify ways to fight it. Estrada makes this relevant point:
"Due to laws prohibiting the creation of national tests, curriculum, and teacher certification, governors and state legislators are the only policy makers who can actually decide whether or not to adopt the CCSS. While the federal government has encouraged the states to adopt the CCSS through federal incentives, the states are completely free to reject the CCSS."
The HSLDA is reminding parents that they can make a difference by raising this issue with governors and legislators and those who aspire to those positions. Home-schoolers have been instrumental in stopping federal overreach before, and they could do it again. The Common Core is not a permanent fixture – states can repudiate it as too costly, too shallow and too intrusive.
[First published at the Orange County Register.]