Homeschool parents should have a basic understanding about “Common Core State Standards” (CCSS). The 43 states, District of Columbia, and 4 territories that chose to participate have fully implemented common core state standards for public schools during or before 2014-2015. Several of the states call it “College and Career-Ready Standards” or other variations. As of this year, Alaska, Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia are not participating. Minnesota only implemented the English Language Arts portion. Almost all states have organized opposition of some size to end participation.
There are multiple reasons why homeschoolers should have a basic understanding about CCSS. Some homeschool parents may eventually transfer their child to a public school that uses CCSS. Some states require homeschool students to occasionally take an achievement test, which may eventually be impacted by common core content. Some homeschool students may consider an online charter school at some point that is required to follow CCSS. People in several states are pushing to end their state’s CCSS participation, so homeschool families should know enough about CCSS to understand legislation.
Concerns over standards have been around for quite a while. Some people are opposed to a standards-based education altogether. Even though a standards-based education can protect academic efficiency when students relocate to a different school, some do not like the idea of losing local control over what their children should learn. Even if states do not participate in CCSS, the structure of educational standards already existed in every state and will likely remain, but under state, region, or district control instead of multi-state control.
Common core-related sources state that CCSS only impacts Math and English Language Arts. Multi-state common core standards for only Math and English are more palatable than using for all subjects. Many feel centralized standards for History, Social Studies, and Science would be dangerous. For example, who would decide which History version is accurate? Which ethics and theories would be used in Science? How would social issues be presented? Is there a risk of creating a platform for nationwide social engineering? Many people are leery of centralized education standards for these reasons. While implementing CCSS, many states are combining standards for these additional subjects with CCSS information. It is easy to perceive CCSS as covering all subjects or moving that direction. If these additional subject standards would ever evolve to being under CCSS, many feel it would be disastrous.
Other issues related to common core standards are not new. For-profit standardized test publishers have been driving a national standards-based structure for over a half century. Many of these test publishers are also text book publishers. These for-profit tests form what teachers, schools, and curricula publishers include in education so students can get better test results. In the past, a few states have broken away from the for-profit testing publishers, and created their own assessment or achievement testing to be able to emphasize their own state’s standards. At first glance, these new common core state standards are similar to the states that wanted more control over standards, instead of letting a for-profit corporation have that control. The difference with common core is that multiple states are collaborating to develop these larger geographic standards. The main question remains: “Are centralized standards good or bad?”
The initial reason for annual standardized testing or assessment in general was to diagnose each student’s academic growth, so the individual student could receive extra attention for specific areas in reading, writing, spelling, and math. However, political and administrative pressure in public schools, plus improved data tools through the advancement of technology has turned standardized testing into an accountability tool for evaluating teachers, schools, and districts. Many believe this causes a “teach to test” format in the classroom that creates narrowed learning. Many parents do not like the pressure that standardized tests put on their children, especially if teachers are not going to use the individual diagnostic results to help the student. Some do not think the performance of a single test day should carry so much weight.
CCSS could affect homeschoolers in the few states that require homeschoolers to take periodic state assessment tests. Even if a state allows homeschool exemption from this new common core assessment test, it will affect homeschoolers that might later enroll in a public or charter school. This will likely affect changes in other standardized and achievement tests in the future that could eventually affect homeschoolers.
If you develop your own curriculum, it could be beneficial to compare your curriculum to CCSS, especially the grade level when concepts are introduced. Most Christian worldview homeschool programs are not officially aligning themselves with common core state standards, but most of these programs review and compare standards throughout the nation for scope and sequence of non-controversial concepts. You can compare national common core scope and sequence standards to your curriculum by checking the following links: Mathematics English Language Arts However, it is better to compare your specific state’s standards clarifications for all subjects by visiting your state’s page at HomeschoolingByState.com, then using the appropriate link for your state.
A practice test has been created at SmarterBalanced.org for the public. It is stated the practice test is limited in range of content and not to be used to make educational decisions. It appears the test will use an adaptive structure, similar to many diagnostic tests. A correct answer will trigger a more difficult answer. An incorrect answer will trigger an easier question. The stated goal will be a shorter test than previous tests. Also, it is to be designed to evaluate learning growth for special needs and English learners.
There are several reasons why there are many supporters of this initiative. It was developed by individual state educators collaborating with other states. It is not part of No Child Left Behind. It is led by the National Governors Association (currently 27 Republican, 16 Democrat governors in states participating) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (normally the top education position in each state that is elected or appointed by the governor). It is not led by the national Department of Education. It would be more efficient for students transferring to another school in our very mobile society, so concept mastery is not repeated or completely missed due to unaligned standards. There are also several perspectives how standardization would improve achievement. Other stated benefits: Common Core State Standards FAQ or CoreStandards.org
Many people are cautious about the Common Core State Standards initiative. Here is a sampling of concerns from media across the nation: It will end up being more federal control of education, instead of local. There will be too much corporate influence. It will hurt gifted and special needs students. It will curtail individualized or self-paced curricula that focuses on the students’ ability. Many feel it will encourage more “teach to test” pressure than already exists. Some feel more time will be spent on CCSS concepts, which will decrease a broader education. There is a concern of a national database developing for student information that invades privacy. The common core standards include controversial “investigative math” concepts. Many are concerned about what is included in literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical subjects. Some think the state government motivation for the initiative is solely federal funds rather than seeing a need for it.