Common Core

What If They Threw Common Core Tests and Nobody Came?

Maybe, just maybe, one size of education does not fit all



So far, of the estimated 1.1 million New York public school students in grades 3-8 who were expected to take standardized Common Core tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics, about 155,000 are known to have opted out. That's up from 60,000 or so last year. That's pretty impressive, since state education officials insist "there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests." Technically, over 10 percent of students subject to the tests, and their parents, are engaged in civil disobedience.

There's a lot to debate over the value of testing, and the politics of the current opt-out campaign, which is driven by a combination of parents opposed to rigid Common Core standards and teachers opposed to test-based determinations of their performance. But if we can't agree on anything else, maybe we can come together on the idea that a one-size-fits-all model of education just isn't working.

Educrats brought this on themselves with their insistence that there's one right way of teaching and learning. All we have to do is find out what it is, apply it to all the kids, and we achieve an educational nirvana where our kids can beat out those damned kids from Shanghai (yeah, seriously, that's one of their selling points).

The problem, as educrats are discovering, is that there's a hell of a lot less agreement than they thought about what kids are supposed to learn, how they're supposed to learn it, and how fast it should be learned. Everybody wants their kids educated, but parents differ in philosophy, and kids differ in ability and inclination.

Education choice has been growing as a concern for the past two decades even as options have gained importance in many areas of American life. Food, entertainment, news media, politics, and culture have increasingly accommodated personal preferences. Why wouldn't education do the same? And so it did—charter schools, homeschooling, virtual schools, vouchers, tax credits…

And then the educrats cooked up Common Core to turn the whole education effort within reach of politicians into an assembly line, even sucking in the charter schools that had been satisfying the demand for educational diversity.

Maybe Common Core would have received a better reception if it had been imposed on the country in 1946, after years of regimentation and top-down decision-making from the New Deal bureacracy and the war effort. A gray standardized approach might have suited a collectivized era. But it was decades too late.

Hillary Clinton, now filling the Bob Dole-ish role as heir apparent to her party's presidential nomination simply because it's her turn, says that education is a "non-family enterprise" and criticizes those who "don't understand the value" of Common Core. Yeah, good luck with that. That's her former constituency in New York, the people who put her in the United States Senate, and they apparently don't agree. Many of them are voting with their kids' butts on (or off) classroom chairs to say that they want something different than the standard (and standardized) offering.

Not all parents agree. Many others are happy with the standards and testing. That makes sense because, as with so many things, one size doesn't fit all.