First published on LA Schools Matter on September 14, 2013
"We had 23 different language groups at my son's school. How can one common core be relevant to all of these very different people?" — Teresa Sitz, LAUSD Parent-Activist
I founded Communities & Families Resisting Proposition 39 Charter Colocations along with several families fighting against the privatization project's latest ploy, the colocation. While the group was pretty 90026 specific (we have two colocations in our community), it grew quickly throughout Los Angeles.
As the group grew, its focus broadened to cover all school privatization and the neoliberal corporate reform project in general. Over the weekend one parent asked about Corporate/Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Paraphrasing, she said she understood the whole opposition based on the profit motive behind CCSS, but asked why national standards were bad in general. There were a lot of excellent responses, but one of the most interesting came from a prominent Silver Lake parent-activist named Teresa Sitz. It was so cogent, I felt it needed a larger audience than that of a facebook message board. Here it is in its entirety.
From what I understand, and I haven't looked at this deeply, school districts have to buy (rent) the common core at an exorbitant price that drains funds from the everyday running of schools. The money - billions - goes to for-profit corporations who have lobbied heavily to implement what for them is a cash cow. In essence it's a transfer of wealth (tax payer dollars) from the poor to the rich. ALEC is a principle lobbyist. This is no small thing.
I don't know that you can tease out possible benefits from the corporate interests, but here are another couple of things to consider. I believe this locks down curriculum, so a teacher teaching inner city students, who in their class might be behind in reading, couldn't add the book ALWAYS RUNNING, for instance, to their class. Teachers have to stick to corporate/state approved curriculum even if it has no relevance to the students and the students do not engage. The teacher's hands are tied.
This won't be implemented in private schools - it's only for public schools - a grand experiment on the poor. Our corporate and state leaders are not famed for their promotion of critical thinking. In addition, would we need real teachers to teach the core? If you just follow a standard dictated day by day, couldn't any Teach for America employee with 5 weeks of training step in and act as the teachista? Doesn't it take someone with a background in critical thinking, with a background in education, highly qualified, to teach critical thinking?
What about schools with highly successful programs like MAS (Mexican American Studies). Sorry. Success doesn't matter. Keeping the steady stream of money flowing to the corporations to fund a state sponsored curriculum that may be entirely irrelevant to students and families is a type of violence. Students and families want to see their own lives reflected in their studies instead of having their cultures ignored and whitewashed.
We had 23 different language groups at my son's school. How can one common core be relevant to all of these very different people? You need fully qualified and supported teachers to reach all of these students. Education in our very diverse culture cannot be one-size-fits-all.
Common standards have been tried in the past and failed. I believe the common core might be tied to federal funds so the poorest school districts would be blackmailed into funding it just as they are with No Child Left Behind and other unfortunate reforms. Not exactly consensus or adoption - more like another state-sponsored corporate giveaway.