Let’s test Common Core before implementing it

I appreciated the recent story by Evan Bevins in the Times on the Common Core Standards. I have been following the issue and was interested to hear what local school officials had to say. Sadly, it was what I might have guessed. When asked about some of the criticism the Standards have received Wolf Creek Superintendent Bob Caldwell said, “It’s already passed. It’s in law and we’re not going to fight it.”

Now that’s a stout heart. I’m glad Caldwell was not around when Mr. Lincoln was thinking of issuing the Emancipation Proclamation or when the suffragettes were fighting for the vote. Assume the benevolence of the state and all will be well. That’s a good lesson for the kids. If wonder if it gives Caldwell, or other local school administrators, pause to know that in recent days the Michigan House of Representatives voted to defund Common Core in their state, the full Indiana legislature voted to block the program’s implementation in their state, and the Republican National Committee has voted unanimously to condemn the Standards. In other words, this is hardly a settled issue.

In the Times article, Caldwell went on to justify the adoption of Common Core on the ground that curricula or standards must be uniformed throughout the country in order to facilitate easy movement from one school system to the next “in our mobile society.” While I understand the desire to make sure kids don’t fall behind when they move, studies show that only about 2 percent of our school population makes a move each year. Are we really going to overhaul the entire educational system to meet the needs of so small a number of students? Has anyone considered whether there might be a more effective/cheaper fix to the problem? How about additional tutoring for the small group affected?

Caldwell adds that in respect to helping kids transition from one school to the next, “it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a touch of federal regulations.” If the effect of such a “touch” was to inoculate local districts against further federal intervention then that might be true. However, such an inoculation is unlikely and, inconvenient as it might be, it happens to be unconstitutional.

Before a new drug comes on the market the FDA tests it for years. Not to do so would be irresponsible. It would be cause for legal action if someone were sickened or killed by the untested drug. What we have done by rushing Common Core into the schools is no different from putting an untested medicine on the market. Why the rush? If some believe Common Core is the answer to our educational needs, then let’s pilot it somewhere and see if it works before we impose it on 90 percent of the students in the country. Otherwise we risk educating a generation qualified to do nothing but become school administrators.

D. Austin Rehl