Common Core

'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.

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  1. Semi OT:

    “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.”

    I don’t know why this makes me think of this, but a couple of weeks ago, I chaperoned a field trip for my daughter’s class. To chaperone, you have to fill out a background check form.

    The last question appeared to be one of those catch-all type lawyerly questions that tries to cover anything the rest of the form didn’t cover. It read:

    Have you disclosed anything that would disqualify you from being eligible to accompany the students on a field trip ______? If you answer “no”, please explain: ___________________

    When I turned the form in, I told the lady at the desk that I didn’t answer the last question because no matter what I put down, I’d have to register as a sex offender. She looked at the form, read the question to herself half a dozen times and said, “Yeah, don’t answer that… that’s weird, no one has EVER caught that or brought that to our attention.

    1. You missed your chance, Paul.

      Have you disclosed anything that would disqualify you from being eligible to accompany the students on a field trip ______? No.

      If you answer “no”, please explain: ___________________ “No” means “no”.

      1. I initially considered writing “Uhm, because there’s nothing to disclose…” in the explanation.

        But then I got to thinking that when filling out any form that’s designed to ferret out if you’re a sexual miscreant or not, I don’t want ANY misunderstandings.

      2. “My extensive Hentai collection is none of your business!”


    2. The initial question is bizarre. Wouldn’t it make more sense for it to read: “Have you FAILED TO DISCLOSE anything that would disqualify you…”?

      Then again, the follow-up question still doesn’t make shit’s worth of sense either.

      1. yeah, that was the presumed idea. It was the common core of sexual background checks.

  2. It’s not enough for a student to be able to divide one fraction by another. He or she must also “use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that (2/3) ? (3/4) = 8/9, because 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3.”

    Emphasis added. This is bullshit.

    1. On wheels it’s bullshit.

      1. OK. They are *equivalent* statements.

        Would you “explain” that 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3 because (2/3) ? (3/4) = 8/9?

        1. If someone asked me to, I could. It demonstrates a good grasp on the relationship between division and multiplication, which is obviously what the question is looking for. Would you prefer a question without the concrete example, that just asked, “Explain the relationship between multiplication and division”? Because that understanding is what they are trying to test.

          1. Since most of these kids won’t be explaining anything except the difference between a cashier and a barista it makes little difference.

        2. The commutative properties of multiplication allow me to solve the problem (2/3 / 3/4) as 2/3 * 1/(3/4) == 2/3 * 4/3, and then multiply (2*4)/(3*3) == 8/9. Using the answer as a fraction of your denominator is weird.

    2. (2/3) ? (3/4) = 8/9, because 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3.

      Yes, let’s make kids who struggle conceptually with the relationship between multiplication and division explain the relationship using some unintelligible statement. Kids cannot conceptualize what 3/4 of 8/9 is, so they get nothing out of having to phrase it that way.

      What ever happened to finding a common denominator and doing the division on whole numbers? It’s easier, and it helps kids understand the relation between seemingly unrelated fractions, because the fractions can always be converted to a common denominator.

      1. Kids cannot conceptualize what 3/4 of 8/9 is

        That seems like a problem.

        1. Not at all, fractions of fractions are hard for kids to grasp. There are much better ways to teach the relationship of multiplication to division. How does this help the kid at all if they’re still struggling with multiplication of fraction, and have no innate sense of the relation of fractions with different denominators?

          It’s like saying 3/? ? 5/? = 15/? because 3/? is 15/? of 5/?

          Without understanding of common denominators, it’s gibberish

        2. I find the latter (3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3) to be easy to conceptualize, the former – not at all. So maybe they’re stressing the equivalence of the two in order to make it possible for them to make sense of the former. Just convert it to the latter.

    3. (2/3) ? (3/4) = 8/9, because 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3.”

      Looks like circular logic.

  3. Really, this is all, er, academic. People in the US have hold education and learning in such low regard that no scheme will improve the system.

    1. “US have hold education and learning”. See?

      1. Yep. Even “to have and to hold” is going by the wayside.

        1. And a good thing that. Less people will go blind.

  4. On the right hand side of Ricky Suave’s article in the Daily Caller is a link to this article, which is at least tangentially related:

    “A teacher at a Los Angeles charter school has been removed from the classroom and hit with a lawsuit from the parents of a biracial student who claims he barraged his class with racial stereotypes and said that Michael Brown “got what he deserved.”

    “Other parents and students, however, claim the teacher is the victim of a preposterous witch hunt.”…..wn-a-thug/

    The article links to comments by students and parents denying that the teacher is a racist.

    And, significantly, on his rate my teacher page:

    “he is unequivocally one of the finest teachers I have ever come across, and one of the main reasons we have been so pleased with our decision to stay in the public school system.”

    Is there a hint of menace here?…..e/746754-t

    1. Apparently, he also mentioned that President Lincoln’s opponents called Lincoln a n-word lover.

  5. My daughter is in the second grade. She’s doing OK in math, but most of her classmates are failing badly. I mean scores in the 30’s instead of just below passing. The teacher had to send a letter home telling parents the kids are not paying attention in class. I think it’s because they’ve given up. They don’t know what the hell is going on with the bullshit common core math. Their parents can’t help them figure it out because the homework comes with no instructions whatsoever, so half the time we’re just trying to figure out what is being asked for each question. My wife and I are college graduates and we can’t explain math to a smart seven year old. It’s asinine work and apparently the teacher can’t explain it either because the kids don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing.

    It was bad enough in school growing up when you had that one lousy teacher and the next year you feel like you’re behind classmates who had a different teacher. Now, the entire concepts they’re being taught are holding everyone back from really learning anything. My daughter likes science so math is going to be important for her. I taught her the “normal” way of simple addition and subtraction we all learned growing up and she picked it up right away. It angers me to no end that the schools aren’t teaching the basics before they jump right into abstract concepts. Starting first graders with word problems before they can read is stupid. Let’s try addition and subtraction with just the numbers, okay?

  6. I’ve heard a couple of talks about Common Core and the main complaint was always that it “dumbed down” the curriculum. No?

    1. No, the main complaint seems to be that they made math too unnecessarily abstract.

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