Saturday, July 19, 2014

Is Common Core Really Over In Oklahoma?


Some time ago I created the meme above based on the notion we've been fed by the Chambers of Commerce that Common Core is necessary in order to train kids for jobs.  Since the standards were forced onto the national scene through Obama's Race to the Top application, the rallying cry has been that business in America is suffering because we are not properly educating our children to be workers.  We must have an educated workforce in order to stimulate our economy.

Once Common Core was repealed in Oklahoma, and the process created by which new standards will be established, Oklahoma is now officially free of Common Core.  Or are we?

The short answer is NO.  Common Core is the name for a set of educational standards predicated on the notion that children must be "College and Career Ready".  Sadly, this prevailing thought has been steeped through nearly every pore of the business machine through both the Chamber of Commerce and the National Governor's Association.  The standards may now be in Davy Jone's locker, but the idea behind them is not.

Take Governor Fallin's recent Oklahoma Now column, "Education Beyond High School is the “New Minimum” for Success in Today’s Economy”.  Here, she makes the case that the state should drive education in order to secure a better future for individuals when she says,

Solving this problem, however, (of “preparing our citizens to succeed in a more competitive economy”) requires state-level action. It requires a commitment to reform. Above all, it demands recognition that the status quo is no longer adequately serving Oklahoma students in today’s competitive, global job market.

It seems apparent from our Governor’s perspective that the state determines the best course for Oklahoma’s students.

In fact, she closes by saying,

My job as governor is to push forward, to demand more, and to work with teachers, parents, and administrators to ensure our students graduate high school ready to continue their education and become college and career ready. Nothing is more important to the individual prosperity of our students or the continued prosperity of our state.  

I very much disagree with her assessment of her job.  Her job is NOT to demand, it’s a parent’s job to demand.  It’s not her job to ‘ensure’ Oklahoma’s students do anything – it’s the parent’s job to direct the education of their children.  In fact, if you've been a parent, you know you can’t ENSURE anything about your children’s future – all you can do is the best you can do and pray.

Recently, I was in Enid speaking with the Sons and Daughters of Liberty – one of my favorite groups in the state.  A man attended the meeting and began to ask very pointed questions about the course of education in Oklahoma.  Sadly, he quite apparently believed it the state’s job to provide accountability for education.  In his opinion, unless we test public education students rigorously, Oklahoma will continue to suffer poor educational outcomes.

I think the only way to describe the disjointedness of this thought process is to share a comment I made to our Facebook page the other day on just this subject.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Those of us that pay taxes to support public schools are being manipulated by a growing chambercrat/statist cadre who care nothing for students excepting their ability to become employable and drive the economic engine that keeps them at the top of the food chain. If we’re not wise, we’ll soon be asked to genuflect and kiss their rings. I’m not talking entitlement – no 99%’er philosophy here – I’m talking about individual liberty and the fact that the more government grows and the more fingers it has in our lives, the less liberty we have as individuals . School reform should be local, individual and parent-driven – not predicated on automaton-generating sameness tidied up with a red bow to sucker parents into believing their children should be educated by the state solely to get a job when they graduate. True education elevates the individual and provides the foundation for a free society. Today’s education ‘reform’ is the exact opposite.

So what is my definition of education?  This is the definition I provided on my application to serve on one of Oklahoma’s new standards writingcommittees when asked to define College-, Career- and Citizen-Readiness.

Students ready to tackle the challenges of the world are the product of a well-rounded education in a school that provides an environment in which every child is responsible for his or her actions. Students should study a variety of broad, rich subjects such as world history, music, art and classic literature to expand their minds and ignite the desire for learning; however learning isn’t predicated simply upon coursework.

The creation of productive, capable individuals ready to enter the world in whatever capacity they desire requires a mixture of education and expectation. Schools must impart knowledge to students, but also the mechanics of personal responsibility.

Students not taught to take responsibility for their learning, perceive education as a job – a rote mechanical effort done becomes someone else wants it done. When students are allowed to move forward in their education without meeting the requirements of courses as prescribed by the teacher and administration, the student learns that knowledge isn’t important – that ‘school’ is a game to manipulate to their own end.

When students are allowed to behave against expectations without prescription and delivery of a reasonable, identifiable punishment for those behaviors, students are provided no framework for authority. Without a framework for authority, there is no trust. Without trust, students are unable to see the value of education in their lives and learning cannot occur.

Oklahoma can create the best set of standards in the world, but until it is understood that education is a mixture of education and expectation – and follow through on that understanding – Oklahoma will continue to see poor educational outcomes. 

Here’s how the NGA defines College and Career readiness:

A college- and career-ready student is an individual that is ready to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses and in workforce training programs.  College refers to two- and four-year postsecondary schools.  Workforce training programs pertain to careers that offer competitive, livable salaries above the poverty line; offer opportunities for career advancement; and are in a growing or sustainable industry.
*National Governors Association, “Common Core State Standards Initiative: Standards Setting Criteria” (Washington, D.C.: 2009).

With which definition do you most agree?