I got a letter in my email today (cited below) from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, telling me how the future prosperity of our nation depends on adoption of the Common Core standards. I wonder how many members of the Chamber have ever seen a copy of the Common Core standards? Why do they think they will produce miraculous changes in test scores? What evidence do they have about the validity of these standards?

Personally, I don’t know if the standards will have a great effect because they have never been subject to trial. Maybe they are the greatest education innovation of our entire history. Maybe not. What we know to date is that the states that take Common Core-aligned tests see a dramatic drop in test scores. Very few children with disabilities can pass the tests; very few English learners can pass the tests. Most kids from all backgrounds fail them. Only 31% passed the Common Core tests in New York state.

Maybe if you are CEO of some huge corporation, you react by saying, “Wow, that is great news! Now we have a baseline, and our stupid kids will start to get smarter as we test them more and more.”

I have a suggestion. How about if every member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree to take the PARCC tests or the Pearson Common Core tests that were given to students in New York last spring?

Let’s find out if those who pontificate about these standards can pass the tests. If they can’t, what does that tell us?

But, please, advocate for the things that you want for your own children. If your children are enrolled in an elite private school that doesn’t give the Common Core tests, don’t urge it on Other People’s Children. If the members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce believe what they say, will they insist that the Common Core standards be adopted in the schools their own children attend, in schools like Exeter, Andover, Lakeside Academy, Harpeth Hall, Sidwell Friends, Maumee Valley Country Day School, and the nation’s other top private schools? Surely, if they are so great, shouldn’t all children (including your own) have the same standards? You don’t want them left behind, do you?

Be consistent!

And bear in mind two maxims:

Albert Einstein: “Standardize automobiles, not people.”

Pasi Sahlberg: “Standardization is the enemy of creativity.”

This was the letter I received:

Good afternoon,

Knowing this is a busy news day, I still wanted to share the testimony of the Chamber’s Vice President of Education Policy Cheryl Oldham this afternoon at a New York State Senate hearing titled, “The Regents Reform Agenda: Assessing Our Progress.”

As Cheryl states in her testimony:

  • Although there are exceptions, American public schools are generally producing fewer students with the skills they need for long-term success. To the Chamber and our members, this looming national crisis requires urgent action, and that action must begin with the K–12 education system. 
  • We believe that one major answer to this challenge is the Common Core State Standards. For the U.S. Chamber and the business community more broadly, there are three things that are important to know about Common Core and why we support it.
    • First, Common Core is an elevated set of standards. It focuses on the building blocks of learning, such as reading and math, and is designed to be applicable in the real world—namely, college or career. It is not a curriculum. Common Core  Standards are the “what.” Curriculum is the “how.” That distinction is important to an organization like the U.S. Chamber that values local control and a limited role for the federal government—in most issues—but especially in education.
    • Not only is the rigor of the standards important for ALL students, but the second key attribute of Common Core is nationwide clarity and consistency. For a country that is as mobile as we are today, for employers that in many cases have interests in multiple states, it’s critical that students—wherever they live— are ready to enter college or career training upon graduation.
    • The third important piece for our members and for the nation is the Common Core is on par with international standards. Currently, our young people are being outperformed by students in countries like South Korea, Finland, Canada, Poland, and Australia. Common Core raises our education standards, which will enable Americans to compete with global peers.

Please let me know if you would like any additional information.

Thank you,