Niagara Gazette

January 13, 2014

CONFER: What Common Core means to education's stakeholders

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Editor’s note: This is the seventh article in an eight-part series exploring Common Core.

Common Core is an unwelcome addition to our educational system. It’s an all-out assault on classroom performance, individual privacy and America’s competitive position in the global economy.

To further this analysis, let’s briefly look at the impacts Common Core is having and will have on key stakeholders:

• Taxpayers: Undertaking such a transformation of American education does not come without a considerable investment of resources. School districts need to re-align their policies and procedures and management systems. Teachers need to be re-taught how to teach. Text books, curricula, software and hardware need to be developed and/or purchased.

What does all of this mean to taxpayers? Billions of dollars.

The Pioneer Institute released a white paper in 2012 on the cost of Common Core implementation. Over the seven-year roll out, participating states will spend $1.2 billion on new assessments, $5.3 billion on professional development, $2.5 billion on textbooks and instructional materials and $6.9 billion on technology.

Their report was fairly concise but left out the $4.35 billion that the feds are spending on Race to the Top, the official federal program to launch Common Core. Their report may have been too conservative, as well. Other organizations, such as the Washington Policy Center, estimate the total nationwide cost of implementation at $30 billion, twice what Pioneer estimated.

• Educators: Over the past seven weeks my inbox has been flooded with emails from teachers concerned about Common Core. A pessimist might say, “of course they are concerned. They are getting graded on the results, too.” That’s not the case. Not one email among the dozens I’ve received has mentioned teacher evaluations at all.

Every writer to a person expressed his or her frustrations with the standards and what the new curricula will mean to their pupils and how children’s development will suffer because of it. I have yet to receive an email from an educator who is in favor of the new way.

If my observations are too anecdotal for you, consider a survey conducted by Education Week. Of the respondents (all of whom were teachers), only 49 percent thought Common Core would improve the quality of education. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “very prepared,” those same teachers rated their students as being 2.8 in terms of preparedness for Common Core, while rating their schools districts as 2.9 and their states as 2.8. Those numbers don’t bode well for the launch and sustainability of Common Core.

• Employers: Businesses should have a vested interest in education because the hopeful final product of schooling – an educated and capable adult – is the most important thing to any business. Without a proliferation of good people in the workplace and the workforce, businesses and economies fail.

If you believe everything that the US Chamber of Commerce (the national lobbying group representing the interests of many businesses and trade associations) says, you would think that all businesses support Common Core. The Chamber says “the standards are relevant to the real world, focusing on the knowledge and skills students will need to succeed in life after high school” and provide “a clear roadmap of academic expectations” so “students, parents, and teachers can work together toward shared goals.”

Anything the Chamber says needs to be taken with a grain of salt. They don’t speak for small business owners. After all, this is the same organization that loves dangerous free trade agreements and endless supplies of cheap immigrant laborers, and fought against the “Made in USA” provision of the Great Recession’s stimulus plan.

Many entrepreneurs are frightened by Common Core. As I had mentioned a few weeks ago, I want people working with me, inside and outside my company, who can think on their feet, be creative, react positively to the circumstances before them, and thoughtfully ponder how to make their lives easier and their customers’ experience better. By devaluing creativity, even making it a sin, Common Core won’t develop the free-thinking labor pool that is so critical for economic growth.

So, if these stakeholders – and more — are being hurt by Common Core, who really benefits?

I’ll answer that question in next week’s series finale when I identify some of the public and corporate interests that actually do benefit. It all comes down to power and profits.

 

 

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. Email him at bobconfer@juno.com.