Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Dropping Common Core State Standards won't cost states funding, feds say; Ron Paul has an alternative

The Common Core State Standards, designed to regulate what students learn each year in school, were originally adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, but now that states are dropping out (the latest being Louisiana), the question remains: Can states lose federal funding for choosing not to implement the standards or continue with them?

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed states into following the standards, Alyson Klein writes for Education Week. "The proponents of Common Core claim it is not a federal takeover, but Secretary Duncan's comments and actions prove otherwise. He has already threatened Oklahoma with a loss of funding, and we may be next," Jindal said.

However, the executive director of communications for the Oklahoma State Department of Education said the state was not threatened with funding cuts, and Duncan said at a White House brieifing, "We partner with states whether they're in Common Core or have their own standards. But where we will challenge status quo is when states dummy-down standards."

But were states coerced into adopting the standards? The Obama administration did offer states with uniform, rigorous standards an edge in the "Race to the Top" grant competition, and states that wished to be waived from the No Child Left Behind Act mandates were asked to "embrace standards that would get students ready for post-secondary education," Klein writes.

States could develop their own standards; they did not have to use the Common Core. However, Klein suggests that states opting out of the NCLB law might not be able to invent standards that gain the approval of their teacher-training institutions, which is the requirement for keeping the waiver. Still, Washington state is the only one to lose its waiver so far, which resulted from teacher-evaluation problems. Also, losing the waiver wouldn't reduce a state's federal funding, but would reduce school district's flexibility: they would be forced to use the money for tutoring. (Read more)

The states that dropped Common Core aren't the only ones looking to create an alternative to it. Former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, an opponent of the Common Core, has developed his own curriculum. Designed to prepare students for college but also benefit those who don't plan to continue their education after high school, the curriculum includes history, math, English, foreign languages, personal finance and public speaking. "The curriculum avoids the ideological biases common in public schools; for example, the government and history sections of the curriculum emphasize Austrian economics libertarian political theory and the history of liberty," Paul writes for Inforwars. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade may use the curriculum for free, while families with students in fifth grade and above must pay $250 per year and $50 per course. (Read more)

An NBC News First Read item asks what makes Paul's idea so different from the Common Core itself: "How much does this marketing pitch (self-teaching, interlocking disciplines, big-picture thinking) sound like the things conservatives love to hate about Common Core itself—which is dictating a curriculum in the first place?"

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