As Idahoans engage in a statewide conversation about K-12 public school improvement, I want to add another discussion point to the mix: The state should re-examine its participation in national education standards known as Common Core.
I say this despite my deep respect and friendship for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, a supporter of Common Core. Tom says there is a lot of misinformation out there about Common Core, propelling some of the opposition.
But Lindsey Burke, the Heritage Foundation's education policy expert, told a panel Friday in Orlando that Common Core will lead to less education choice and competition, and is, ultimately, a push for federal control of all education - public and private.
Common Core is "centralization at the whims of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats" and is more about the ease of administration for the government than it is about quality for students and parents.
Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute in Boston said Common Core's academic standards are mediocre, injurious to student academic performance in literary studies, English, mathematics and leave students with, at best, a community college-level of readiness upon graduation. The academic rigors are so suspect, says Stergios, that some experts in education have disavowed them.
But the most compelling discussion during Friday's panel came from parents who are leading the national state-by-state effort to push back. Indiana parent Heather Crossin expressed frustration with the new Common Core-aligned curricula. Crossin said she became aware of Common Core after her third-grader struggled with overwrought math homework.
Christel Swasey, from Utah, is spearheading her state's effort because of the lack of research prior to implementation.
"This is about the kids, and it is not going to have a positive result. If we don't stand up now, we will never get out" of Common Core, Swasey said.
While some 45 states have accepted Common Core, several states are reconsidering. The Republican National Committee has passed a resolution opposing Common Core.
Back to Indiana, Crossin who has been pushing legislation in her state to put Common Core in time out, is finding success. As of Friday, a bill to delay implementation was expected to head to the governor. She said she is winning in Indiana despite well-funded support for Common Core.
Said Crossin, "We have a passion to protect and defend our children's education and ultimately their future and America's future."
I'm sure that Tom Luna wants that, too, but Common Core doesn't get us where we need to be. Homogenization and standardization of education is not the answer for what ails education. If the government were to decide, for example, that all grocery stores had to sell only certain commodities in a certain way, we'd expect mediocrity to overtake the system, and investment in creativity, ingenuity and passion to decline.
The ability for parents, teachers, school boards and even state government officials to craft their own unique solutions, standards and approaches to education, to devise individualized solutions based on regional differences, marketplace demands and the learning interests and passions of schoolchildren will help education, and will help fuel the intellectual health of our nation and its people. That's why it is imperative for Idaho to reconsider and get out of Common Core.
Wayne Hoffman is executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.