What Glenn Beck gets wrong about Common Core

Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior
July 20, 2014

Never mind Glenn Beck - Common Core aligns with the admonition of Scripture to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Chris-Robin Dawes
July 20, 2014

Thank you for this! A fresh and factual approach to the controversy is always welcomed.

July 20, 2014

Thanks for the article. I still didn't feel I knew much about Common Core or about Beck's positions after reading the article, but additional research wasn't difficult to Google up.

Have other nations recently switched to national standards, and did they experience any academic improvement? How do they stack up vs. countries with localized standards? How do locally-run schools currently compare to state-run schools?

I feel the debate is more over effectiveness than morality.

Karen Swallow Prior
July 20, 2014

Thanks for reading and commenting, Chris-Robin!

Stubble, the best way to get more detail about CCSS is to click on the link I included at the word "source" in the last paragraph. So much is made clearer by looking at the standards themselves. Obviously, there is a lot more to this topic than one short post can address. I agree the debate is (or should be) about effectiveness.

Bob Keeley
July 20, 2014

Thanks for this, Karen. It is good to have conversation about this issue that is not mostly about conspiracy theories.

I have some issues with Common Core and very few of my issues are the same as Glenn Beck’s. My concerns with the Common Core are in three areas.

1) The standards have not been vetted by any groups with credibility. They have been developed in isolation, not tested, funded by the Gates Foundation and foisted upon states with the threat of losing federal funding. It is the equivalent of developing a new drug and, without testing it, telling doctors that they will lose some of their pay if they don’t prescribe it.
2) The standards themselves are not a concern as much as ramping up the testing of which there is already too much. Imagine, Karen, if some group that you had no input with developed standards for your English Lit course and then convinced your University that they had to meet those standards in order to get funding and then testing your students on those standards (even if you, as a professional though they were terrible) and that your effectiveness would be judged based on those tests. Even if you thought the tests were not very good. And, let’s also suppose that the same standards would apply at ALL universities across the country, from Harvard to Liberty to Calvin to your local community colleges. All of the colleges. Even the ones who take our lowest achieving students – the ones who might be first generation college students and who are working two jobs to afford tuition. All students would be expected to “pass” the test – and what “pass” means is determined by someone else you have no access to. The cut score is somewhat arbitrary. That’s what schools have to put up with. I know of a school that did not meet annual yearly progress (AYP) in their school – one of the highest achieving, wealthiest school districts in the country – because one of their very small subgroups did not score high enough. One of their students was in jail and missed the test so the school ended up on the “not meeting AYP” list. Do you think this foolishness will decrease with Common Core testing? I don’t.
3) Finally (not really, but for now) this emphasis on standards misses the point. The biggest single factor in school achievement is poverty. Our best students compete very well with the very best students from around the world. Does that sound like we need higher standards for those students? The problem is not that we don’t know how to teach. Nor is the problem that we don’t know what to teach. The problem is poverty and until that is addressed we will continue to punish schools who serve these kids and all schools by continuing to turn up the heat on teachers and school administrators and telling them that they are no good when they are actually doing a fine job. But poverty is a hard nut to crack and the expedient way to deal with it is to assume teachers are doing a poor job or that they are not well prepared and just to turn up the heat until they do better. The beatings, apparently, will continue until morale improves.

I’m all for standards. And I’m not opposed to national standards, Let’s just do it right and, as a nation, quit blaming teachers and schools for things that they have little control over.

S.L. Woodworth
July 20, 2014

Karen- well written article, with just one correction. Many colleges now agree that the SAT and ACT are actually very poor indicators of college success. Many are not including it as a requirement and find that a high school GPA is the now the best indicator. A couple sources:

NRP: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/18/277059528/college-applicants-sweat-the-sats-perhaps-they-shouldn-t

US News: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2013/09/06/why-the-sats-shouldnt-be-a-factor-in-college-admissions

Again, great article

Nelson Keener
July 21, 2014

I will just add here that I was indeed disappointed—to say the least—that my alma mater booked Glenn Beck to speak at student convocation earlier this year. It’s one thing for him to address a student club or communications majors. But for Beck to address the entire student population without providing an alternate viewpoint is one-sided; in both style and substance.

Karen Swallow Prior
July 21, 2014

Bob, my husband is public school teacher and I hear you on all of these points. More than poverty, however, is the family issues these students come to school with (not unrelated to poverty, but not always the same thing--we live in rural district and most of the students are poor). All I can say is that I think the states have messed things up more than anyone else, for the most part.

S.L., thank for those links. Interesting. The people I talk to in admissions and advising still look at test scores closely. I should also have added AP and CLEP which are heavily used in my own institution.

July 21, 2014

You interest me with the reference to the lack of local-ness and how that should affect education standards. My grandmother was born in the late 1800s and attended a normal school - what we now call a teacher's college - on the plains.

Even though the state or territory establishing these schools probably hoped to be raising up teachers for their own areas, it didn't work that way even back in grandma's day. She married and left the plains, eventually settling in the Pacific Northwest.

One thing about those normal schools, though, is that they operated under standards that would have been acceptable in most areas of the country. Common standards are good that way. Balkanizing standards served no one well back in the 19th Century, and it still serves no purpose today.

Rachel Ward
October 2, 2014

I am a mom who has researched this topic extensively, and although I have not read his book, from the references made here in your article, he sounds pretty accurate and you appear to be misinformed. But instead of directing you to the evidence to save you all of the hours & weeks & months of research that I have done, I will simply relay my number one concern. The standards are developmentally inappropriate for young children. Check out Megan Koschnick and Gary Thompson for starters. "Critical Thinking" prior to the proper developmental stage harms children. Let me know if you wish for clarification on all of the inaccuracies in the article.

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