, Corbin, KY


June 14, 2013

One-size-fits-every-state curriculum mandates just the latest federal education fiasco

CORBIN — The latest threat to our rights as Kentucky parents to educate our children in ways that best fit each child’s needs comes from a federally imposed, one-size-fits-every-state educational curriculum known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The program bills itself on its website as offering a “consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.”

Father used to know best. Now nameless, faceless edu-crats inform us that without their blessed intellectual ingenuity, we out here in common-sense America would be clueless as to what our children should be learning.

The leftist National Governors Association and its union-friendly counterparts at the Council of Chief State School Officers are trying to force the CCSS, which they developed, upon us because they apparently believe that Kentucky parents are incapable of figuring out how to help rather than hinder the education of our children.

Based on past behavior, it doesn’t surprise me that we hear barely a whimper of protest about such federal intrusion from the political or education leadership in Frankfort. All the feds apparently need to do is promise states exemptions from those pesky No Child Left Behind requirements and wave hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funding and Kentucky jumps on board headfirst.  

In fact, our state took the money and ran, acquiescing to the feds’ common-core curriculum requirements before the CCSS specifics were even finalized.

Such questionable means of coercing the states into adopting some anemic federally mandated curriculum might not be so contemptible if it were actually going to sufficiently prepare Kentucky kids to compete in the future, very competitive workforce with young adults across the globe.

And it might not be so distasteful if the feds were not trying – as they are with CCSS – to greatly limit what individual states could add to the curriculum in order to make it work better for their students.

Several members of the CCSS Validation Committee, whose job was to review the curriculum’s standards, refused to support the majority’s stance that the common-core program is sufficient.

In what could only be described as a first-degree sin of educational omission by those who prepared the final report, the written concerns of two of the dissenters who wanted their statements entered into the final report were not even included.

Sandra Stotsky, Ph.D., the education-reform professor at the University of Arkansas who transformed Massachusetts’ education curriculum in the early 2000s into the nation’s gold standard for college readiness, had no flattering words for the English Language Arts portion of the common core standards.

Stotsky concluded that the standards would result in “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.”

She also stated that the average reading level needed to pass CCSS for a student to be deemed “college-ready” was that of a seventh-grader.

Her comments are nowhere to be found in the committee’s report.

The report also conveniently buries the fact that the CCSS standards don’t actually prepare students for four-year universities, but “nonselective community colleges.”

The indictment on Kentucky’s education system from this latest federal fiasco is that the common-core curriculum actually represents a step up from the commonwealth’s previous standards.

Even so and at the very least, much more is needed. The feds must allow states to at least beef up these core requirements if students are to have a chance of success in their future academic and work pursuits.

But in the end, how much more do we really need to know to conclude that federally mandated state-education programs have a miserable track record and that it won’t be tellingly better this time around?

Jim Waters is vice president of policy and communications for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

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