'We Have a Lot of Demand From Families Trying to Get Away From Common Core'

The controversial standards represent an opportunity for private schools and homeschoolers


ilmicrofono.oggiono / Foter / CC BY

If recent experience with my kid's education is any guide, private schools may be getting a shot in the arm from familes turned off by Common Core.

My son's hybrid homeschool/online private school gives us a lot of flexibility, but he does have to turn in several work samples in literature and math over the course of the year. We can move units around, abandon lesson plans to use our own teaching methods, and avoid repetitive practice, so long as we provide some demonstrations of his work and progress.

Unfortunately, the work samples (unlike what we're actually teaching him) are based on Common Core standards. There's a heavy emphasis on abstract concepts, such as mental math and drawing out themes from assigned texts. In my opinion, it's a bit much to ask of a nine-year-old.

In a regularly scheduled call with my kid's "homeroom teacher" (basically, our point of contact with the school), she mentioned some points he'd missed on his latest literature sample, which consisted of analyzing several texts.

"I looked it over and I thought he did well," I answered. "Especially for a kid in fourth grade. Some of what's being asked is awfully abstract."

"That's Common Core," she answered. "Third graders have to do it too and they have a really tough time with it. Even fifth graders have problems."

She's no fan of these particular work samples herself. But this might be the last year for this particular approach. Customers want something different, so the school plans to change its ways (I'm being coy about which school since this isn't a public policy discussion for them).

"We have a lot of demand from families trying to get away from Common Core."

Supply responds to demand. Common Core is the rule not just for traditional public schools, but also for increasingly popular charter schools. Privately managed, but funded by public money, charter schools find the range of "alternatives" they can offer severely curtailed by the new standards.

But private schools can make their own decisions.

The numbers are a little hazy, but private school enrollment has apparently been on the decline in recent years—in part, very probably, because charter school now offer options that previously came attached to a tuition bill.

But those options are being curtailed in states that adopted Common Core standards, If you're looking for something very different, once again you have to abandon the public system.

Two years ago, Grover Whitehurst, director of The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, told Fox Business's Kate Rogers that this offered an opportunity.

Common Core implementation in public schools nationwide could mean big business for private schools if parents leave the public system, says Grover Whitehurst, director of The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

"It depends a lot on the parents being served and what they are concerned about," Whitehurst says. "One group of parents that is angry about Common Core is those who are interested in mathematics. Some of the regulations are a return to the kind of mathematics we saw in the 1990s where children were to discover their own solutions rather than being taught algorithms and solutions." For affluent parents, private school is an escape for what is available in public schools, he says.

"Affluent" is relative, I should add. Online offerings can (and do, in our case) bring tuition costs down below what brick and mortar schools charge. (Of course, straight homeschooling also allows an escape from the demands of government regulation of education, and is likely the best choice for families that want complete control over curriculum and educational philosophy.)

In a previous incarnation, Reason's own Robby Soave reported how Wisconsin Catholic schools rejected Common Core in response to popular demand.

As I've learned, there's enough demand from families seeking something different for at least one more private school to move away from the standards causing so much controversy at public institutions.