Common Core is Killing American Education, by Cherylyn Harley LeBon

lebon_smRecently, as I waited in line at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, my eyes drifted to a sample license plate on the wall that said “Education Begins At Home.”

It made me think: “Not if they continue with Common Core and these new SAT standards.”

If they do, public school education will be reduced to “teaching to the test,” with limited choices and options for parents to find alternatives for their children.

As I am the mother of two school-aged children, the Common Core discussion is near and dear to me. There is nothing more important to me than the education of my kids and the curriculum and the influence that people who surround my kids seven hours a day have on them.

The allure of Common Core continues to fade as governors, state officials and teachers across the country are slowly withdrawing their support for these national standards.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, for instance, recently announced his intention to pull back from the consortium developing Common Core assessments. Meanwhile, countless teachers and educators continue to argue that Common Core will “dumb down” educational standards and give faculty less control over what they can teach in the classroom. A resignation letter from a Colorado teacher illustrating these complaints recently went viral in protest to Common Core standards.

Last month, the College Board — the association that developed the Scholastic Assessment Test — announced revisions to the SAT that will be implemented in 2016. The president of the College Board, David Coleman, believes college admissions exams “have become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

The new revisions allegedly were designed to address this issue. More important, the new standards were designed to mirror the K-12 Common Core curriculum.

In 2012, Mr. Coleman took over the College Board in what appears to have been a seamless transition. Earlier in his career, Mr. Coleman worked for McKinsey and Company advising urban school districts. He then went on to help found a non-profit entity called Student Achievement Partners.

It is no surprise to discover that Student Achievement Partners, which claims to bring together researchers and educators to develop programs that improve student outcomes, played a key role in developing Common Core state standards for math and literacy. As a co-founder, Mr. Coleman led his organization’s efforts to develop Common Core.

A significant amount of media coverage has documented how the new SAT changes mirror the Common Core standards. Even Mr. Coleman has been public about his desire for the College Board to better reflect Common Core.

Education Week has even done a detailed, side-by-side analysis of the current SAT, the redesigned SAT and Common Core to show the differences.

At this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival, Mr. Coleman explained that he believes the SAT should offer “worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles.”

I am not sure what world Mr. Coleman lives in, but from my vantage point, there are both challenges and obstacles in the learning process. I am interested in raising children who are capable of confronting those challenges and overcoming those obstacles, regardless of whether someone deems them unworthy or artificial.

Mr. Coleman has pointed out that the new SAT offers an optional essay section. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. Students should be required to write more essays, especially in our text-prone, social media society. Assessing a student’s ability to express their thoughts in a well-written, coherent sentence is an essential skill for college success.

Common Core opponents — including governors, parents, teacher advocacy groups and national and state-based education organizations — must continue to fight against the implementation of Common Core.

The Common Core-SAT connection reminds me of the fable of the scorpion and the frog. The College Board hired Common Core champion David Coleman to infuse Common Core standards into the SAT. He’s like the scorpion that stings and kills the public education frog while riding the frog across the river, thus killing them both.

Why is anyone surprised?

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Cherylyn Harley LeBon is co-chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network. She is a former Senior Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

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