Virginia is one of 46 states lined up in support of the campaign led by Washington-based lobbyists and backed by the Obama administration to write National Education Standards. The collaborationists are starting with reading and math.
The first draft from the Common Core State Standards “work groups” assembled by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association makes one wonder if Virginia would be taking a step backward by ditching its standards (generally acknowledged to be among the nation’s strongest) in favor of the nationalized version.
The draft uses recycled verbiage reminiscent of the national standards push that occurred under Goals 2000 during the Clinton administration. For instance, there are multiple references to preparing children for a global 21st-century work force. (Perhaps someone should point out to the coalition that we are already a decade into the new century.) Leaders of the two teachers’ unions — the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — already have endorsed the Common Core Standards.
While Virginia has English Standards of Learning, the national collaborationists propose Standards for Reading, Writing, and Communication. Check out this mouthful from a section on Speaking and Listening:
Students are expected to utilize the speaking and listening skills in both groups and one-to-one. The application of these skills may be different in varied settings. When communicating in a group and building on the ideas of others with group goals in mind, a student will have to respond constructively by taking turns, using non-verbal cues such as raising a hand. When communicating one-to-one, a student will be able to respond constructively in a more immediate manner such as by asking a question directly of the speaker.
BY CONTRAST, here is a statement of purpose from Virginia’s English Standards:
The twelfth-grade student will use organizational skills, audience awareness, appropriate vocabulary and grammar, and both verbal and nonverbal presentation skills to plan and deliver an effective 5 to 10 minute oral presentation. The student will analyze British literature and literature of other cultures, with attention to the many classic works which may be studied. Writing will include the production of informational and expository papers, which are organized logically and contain clear and accurate ideas. The student will also produce a well-documented major research paper, using a standard method of documentation. The student will demonstrate advanced knowledge of grammatical conventions through writing, editing, and speaking.
Virginia’s Standards have the advantage of being concise, specific, and straightforward — in short, of being written in English. The national version sounds like an exercise in groupthink. “Writing to inform or explain,” it states, “requires students to integrate complex information from multiple sources in a lucid fashion” This section goes on to say that in their writing students must anticipate “confusions that might arise.”
Yes, it is easy to see how “confusions” could occur.
The proposed College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics appear to be highly tolerant of the “new math” mindset of emphasizing conceptual understanding more and computational skill less. The work group announces confidently that “we have taken a step toward the next generation of standards that are aligned to collegeand career-ready expectations and are internationally benchmarked.” New standards “must be focused on deeper, more thorough understanding of more fundamental mathematical ideas and higher mastery of these fewer, more useful skills.”
SO IS LEARNING the multiplication tables a useful skill? You wouldn’t know it from these standards, which are woefully short of grade-level specifics. However, there are multiple tasks that encourage the estimating of answers. Isn’t that what’s needed in the 21st century: best guesses?
President Obama indicated in a July 24 speech that his administration will “reward states that come together and adopt a common set of standards and assessments.” The pot of gold is the money borrowed from our grandchildren, the $787 billion stimulus that was supposed to create jobs but instead is molding sweeping social policy without benefit of public hearings.
If states acquiesce in National Standards, they will likely receive a slice of the $4.35 billion set aside for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to distribute at his sole discretion as a “Race to the Top” fund. If they don’t, they probably won’t. In addition, Duncan plans to pay for national tests.
Gov. Tim Kaine, who was the first governor to endorse Candidate Obama, has enthusiastically endorsed Virginia’s participation. Virginians, including the major-party candidates to succeed Kaine and members of the General Assembly, ought to consider if this runaway train will really take our children to the top, or over a ledge and into an abyss.
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