ALTON, N.H. – The Alton School Board voted last week to reject the Common Core learning standards, but the vote won’t do anything to stop the nationalized English and math standards from taking full effect in the district next school year.
The board’s 3-2 vote does not reverse the curriculum changes the district has already made to align with the new learning standards, nor will it stop Alton students from taking New Hampshire’s Common Core-aligned standardized tests beginning next school year, reports The Laconia Daily Sun.
The board’s vote is symbolic, and only underscores the difficulty school districts and states will have in liberating themselves from the Common Core standards, should they ever wish to do so, writes parent activist Christel Lane Swasey of WhatIsCommonCore.WordPress.com.
Once Common Core fully takes root during the 2014-15 school year, individual states and school districts will have few options for side-stepping Common Core’s requirements.
Swasey notes that New Hampshire could join several other states in dropping out of the Common Core testing consortiums, which are designing new national assessments that will be given to students in the spring of 2015.
That sounds encouraging, but in reality, that decision would only force the state’s (staunchly) pro-Common Core education leaders into designing their own Core-aligned test. That would probably be very costly, and it wouldn’t change the fact that New Hampshire students are being taught according to the new standards.
What other options does the Alton school district have? Could they work with other New Hampshire districts to pressure state education leaders into changing parts of the new Common Core standards?
Swasey says they couldn’t, because there’s “no representative amendment process for the commonly held standards.”
She notes that the Common Core standards are owned by two private organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and that the two groups “hold copyright over the standards and only these unaccountable groups can alter our standards.”
“Adding insult to injury, the federal government put a 15 percent cap on top of the copyright, so states aren’t allowed to add more than 15 percent to the commonly held standards.”
Even that’s not a very meaningful concession, Swasey notes, since those add-ons won’t appear on the new assessments being designed by the national testing consortiums.
And if the additional standards don’t appear in the tests, why would teachers spend much (if any) time on them in class?
It seems that unhappy individual school districts, such as Alton, are powerless to stop Common Core.
If Common Core is to be stopped, it’ll have to be at the state level. And even then, there are only two apparent options.
The first is that unhappy states can band together to pressure the NGA and CCSSO into changing the learning standards. That would take a huge, coordinated effort among the state leaders, always a difficult proposition.
And should a majority of Common Core-aligned states somehow agree on how to change the standards, there’s no guarantee the two private groups that control Common Core would agree to make the changes.
The other option would be for an individual state’s education leaders to reject Common Core and replace it with a new set of standards. This is also a huge undertaking, and like the other option, there’s no guarantee of success, because the federal government has cleverly linked its No Child Left Behind waivers to the adoption of Common Core or other “college- and career-ready standards.”
If a state with a No Child waiver decides to drop Common Core, it would likely have to adopt standards that are very similar to Common Core, if the feds are going to let them wiggle out of the requirements and penalties of NCLB.
States would be pitted against the U.S. Department of Education, and it’s anyone’s guess how such a scenario might play out.
In case those roadblocks aren’t enough to keep states in the Common Core experiment, there’s the very practical matter of college entrance exams.
As the Washington Post recently reported, “Students in every state take the high-stakes college admissions exams, the SAT and the ACT, as well as the newly designed GED, the high school equivalency test used as an alternative way to get a high school diploma. And all of those exams are going to be aligned to the Common Core standards, at least that is what their respective owners say.”
It’s a safe bet that no state is going to let its students be the oddballs of the nation who can’t get into out-of-state colleges and universities because they studied under different (supposedly “less rigorous”) standards.
Which brings us back to the Alton School Board’s recent vote to reject Common Core.
The board members’ dedication to the principle of locally controlled education is admirable. But the sad reality is that the days of a local school district determining how its students are educated are nearly over. And that’s not going to change until this Common Core experiment is uprooted and cast on history’s scrap heap.