Last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to Arne Duncan, the U. S. Secretary of Education, to notify him that Florida was withdrawing from what the Governor called "the federal government's overreach into our education system." Stating that he wanted to "remove the state from federal intrusion in education policy" related to the Common Core -- the new federal education standards that have been adopted by 45 states -- Governor Scott was under pressure from parents who have denounced the Common Core standards as an intrusion on state and local control over education.
This is just the latest battle in what has become a war over the federalization of K-12 education as parents and teachers enlisted in the fight by joining groups like Facebook's Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards, and recruiting high profile leaders like Diane Ravitch, educational policy analyst and research professor at New York University to help them mount an attack against the federal intervention in their local schools.
Despite the fact that the General Education Provisions Act, the Department of Education Organization Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act all protect states against such intrusion by the United States Department of Education, all states but four including Texas, Virginia, Alaska and Nebraska have adopted the complete Common Core Standards.
Florida is not the only state with buyers' remorse. Earlier this year, Indiana Republican Governor Mike Pence suspended his state's adoption of the Common Core -- signing the "Common Core Pause Bill" into law -- delaying the implementation until state agencies, teachers, and taxpayers deliberate on the value of having the federal government involved in imposing standards that will drive the curriculum for Indiana's school children.
In New York City, K-12 public school principals sent a letter to New York Education Commissioner John King documenting their fears that "too many educators will use these high stakes tests to guide their curricula, rather than the more meaningful Common Core Standards themselves." Claiming that when groups of parents, teachers and principals recently shared students' experiences in their schools, the teachers learned that "frustration, despondency, and even crying were common reactions among students."
Neither parents nor teachers were consulted in the design of the federal education standards that have been imposed. Instead, the Common Core Standards were developed by an organization called Achieve, and the National Governors Association -- both of which were funded by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. As Diane Ravitch has pointed out, there was no field testing and no input from those charged with implementing the standards on a local level.
While the adoption of the Common Core was "voluntary" by the states that adopted it, it was well understood by these states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. The Gates Foundation was very much a part of this. According to Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post (December 2, 2012), "the Gates Foundation invested tens of millions of dollars in the effort... The Obama administration kicked the notion into high gear when it required states to adopt the common core -- or an equivalent -- in order to compete for Race to the Top grant funds."
Those promoting the Common Core standards maintain that local districts can still design their own curriculum to meet these federal standards. But parents and teachers know that standards drive the curriculum. Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that in a speech he gave on September 2, 2010 when he celebrated what he called the "transformational change now taking hold in our nation's schools." Duncan concluded his speech by proclaiming that "the new assessments will help drive the development of a rich curriculum." (Emphasis added.)
Assessments always drive curriculum. The Secretary of Education knows that -- and parents and teachers know that also. When the federal government is developing the assessments the curriculum will of course be created to prepare students to perform well on these assessments. And, local school districts will lose control of the curriculum in their own schools.