The effort of Common Core was forty-five state governors and state school officers voluntarily creating a set of standards for reading and math, not for science, not for social studies, not for history; reading and math. That would be fewer standards, higher standards, and if you assessed them faithfully, it would mean, at the end of the K-12 experience, a student would be college and/or career ready.
And we spend a ton of dough. I mean we’re spending more per student than any other country in the world other than two or three, and these are small countries, places like Luxembourg, you know. So the effort was a good one, and I support that effort because I think we’re fooling ourselves. Let’s say you just kept the standards you had and kids were getting high school diplomas, and you know you’re quite proud to get your high school diploma, but then you go to the community college, and you do the initial assessment and you’re told, “sorry, you’re going to have to redo high school math and high school reading before you start taking college level courses.” Who’s fooling who? We’re so focused, obsessed about self-esteem, at some point you’ve got to say, well, the best self-esteem is when you can read and calculate math and graduate from high school so you can get a job or go to college. And this effort to raise standards is why I support them. It was done after I was Governor, by the way.
Now, when the federal government uses Race to the Top money or the waiver process because of No Child Left Behind Act has expired, has ended, they’re using the waiver process to get what they want, so they’re—I don’t even think they have that power as it relates to these waivers for No Child Left Behind. The Race to the Top money, when they provided incentives for Common Core to be implemented, because that’s effectively what they did. That was wrong. But that doesn’t mean the standards are bad. And it doesn’t mean you can’t fix that by saying two things: one, the federal government in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act should expressly prohibit the federal government directly or indirectly being involved in standards, content, curriculum, data-privacy, all these things. Over and out. Put a big iron fence around it. Put it in the—you know, bury it. Never let it come up again. That’s one way to do it. The other way is for states to say it’s too poisonous, it doesn’t matter, I can’t—the facts don’t matter, just—we’ve got to get beyond this, so we’re going to create our own standards. And those standards, the only thing I would suggest, and humbly suggest, that they be high. As high as Common Core, or higher. Because that’s the world we’re moving towards. Why would we fool ourselves into thinking if you dumb all this down, it’s going to be a good result?
So, yeah it’s controversial. I’ve learned, though, that because something’s controversial or you have a view that’s the narrative, the so-called political narrative’s been built up, you don’t abandon your core beliefs. You go persuade people, as I’ve tried to do right now, about why I’m for higher standards. And those that have been implementing them and have had a hard time dealing with this, because there is political heat around it, they’ll have their chance to sort that out in their own way.
The way I’ve sorted it out is I think you need to be genuine. I think you need to have a backbone. I think you need to be able to persuade people. This is a national crisis, this is a national priority. Our country will not be as vibrant and as dynamic as it needs to be unless we dramatically improve education outcomes in this country. And by the way, the savings that will come at the community college level and the four year degree level and the technical school level by elevating outcomes for K-12 pays for all this.
Bush does endorse the new federal legislation, saying the feds can’t condition waivers on states’ adopting particular curriculum or standards. I do not understand how anyone in government can believe after quadrupling spending on education we will save money with the new standards “at the community college level.” The money doesn’t appear to be working.
Maggie Gallagher is editor of ThePulse2016.com.