This Deal Is Getting Worse All the Time

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Shorter Arne Duncan: The U.S. Department of Education is not pressuring states to adopt Common Core. However, any state that takes action to resist Common Core will be immediately singled out by the Education Secretary for an extremely harsh public denunciation of its education system – which will obviously make it effectively impossible for the Department to look favorably upon that state when doling out grants and waivers for the foreseeable future.

19 Responses to This Deal Is Getting Worse All the Time

  1. People should also know that Secretary Duncan is mis-using the NCES analysis to suggest that South Carolina has lowered its standards to below those of other states. South Carolina did significantly lower its performance standards between 2005 and 2009. But they did so because they had raised those performance standards to well-above the national average before that. In the end, South Carolina had math and reading performance standards that were close to the national average and close to the NAEP standard for Basic.

    One of the potential benefit of state control over performance standards is that they can raise or lower them so that they are not too easy so that everyone passes or so hard that everyone fails. You have to hit the sweet spot between these points to motivate students and educators to improve without crushing them. Each state may have a different sweet spot and needs the flexibility to adjust in case they miss the mark (as SC initially did) or in case achievement improves (as has occurred in FL).

    We actually had Jack Buckley, the Commissioner of NCES, out to give a lecture in Arkansas during which he presented this analysis. You can see a summary and the slides here:

  2. Ze'ev Wurman says:

    Jay, didn’t you watch the video clip before commenting?

    Here is a pair of clown shoes for you to wear!

  3. Autif Kamal says:

    Please excuse my ignorance and enlighten me. Under what circumstances is it unjustified to not give grants to states that do not adopt national/ Common Core standards?

    I’m asking because it makes sense for every state to be on the same page with respect to educational standards. Anyway, thanks in advance for your reply.

    • allen says:

      Autif, your question assumes that such standards accurately reflect the widely-understood and widely-agreed upon goals of public education.

      In fact, national standards are simply political documents heir to all the ills of all political solutions. National standards can be so constructed that schools appear successful while graduating students who are functionally illiterate. That’s the route more then a couple of states cholse to go when NCLB required students to measure up to the states own standards.

      • Autif Kamal says:

        To be clear, my question itself doesn’t make that assumption, but yes, the statement following it does.

      • allen says:

        A very good reason to oppose national standards is because they’re an educational “monoculture” which means that any shortcomings in a national curriculum become shortcomings for the entire nation.

        Further, since national standards would be the result of the political process some – many – of those shortcomings will be deliberate and fiercely defended. Public education is seen as an opportunity to indoctrinate along with its more widely accepted role as a means of educating. The political constituencies that manage to inject their views into the national curriculum will fight very hard to continue to impose their views on the next generation.

        And yeah, your question does imply the validity of national standards. Either that or you’re asking about the enforcement options available under a law that doesn’t exist.

      • Autif Kamal says:

        Thanks for your explanation, Allen.

        I guess I just figured that if all states could not agree on all educational standards that should be aimed for, then at least perhaps there are just certain individual educational standards that they can agree on. And that way, all states could extend their level of agreement only to those specific standards rather than all of them. I’m just speculating. I’m not really sure how reasonable or unreasonable an expectation that is.

    • Ze'ev Wurman says:


      If, indeed, “it makes sense for every state to be on the same page with respect to educational standards,” don’t you think it also makes as much sense for every state to have the same laws, or the same state taxes?

      Welcome to the United States! Please read the Constitution on entry.

      • Autif Kamal says:

        That wasn’t really a refutation. If you want to prove that it doesn’t make sense for different states to have the same educational standards, simply explain directly why they should have different educational standards. I don’t mind being proven that it doesn’t make sense, but I’d like an explicit explanation for that rather than just an analogy.

        Also, your snide remark at the end of your post was unnecessary.

      • Han common says:

        Also then it would make sense to have a national dress code of clown shoes and pink dresses for all men, right?
        Have you not read ” the giver ” ?

  4. […] so he maligns their educational system.  Greg Foster blogging over at Jay P. Greene’s blog had this to say: The U.S. Department of Education is not pressuring states to adopt Common Core. However, any state […]

  5. Greg Forster says:

    There are so many reasons it’s unjustified for DOE to withhold grants from states that resist Common Core, it’s hard to pick just one.

    1) It’s against federal law. DOE is prohibited from attempting to exercise control over curriculum and standards.

    2) The DOE is claiming that it’s not doing this; Duncan actually repeats that claim in this very statement! (That was kind of the point of my post.) And when you say you’re not doing something while you’re actually doing it, that’s . . . bad for everybody.

    3) Competition between states keeps standards high because states that set low standards can’t attract people. That’s why Florida went from being one of the worst states in the nation for education to beeing the national leader in education reform. A single national standard brings this competition to an end.

    4) The Common Core standards are academically weak. For example, they define “college ready” at a level below what you need too even *apply* to most colleges.

    5) The standards impose “one best way” to learn. Different children learn differently and need different approaches.

    6) Even if we thought there really was “one best way,” we don’t know what it is. There is no consensus on what teaching methods/approaches/etc. work best. (That’s because the quest for “one best way” is a hopeless snipe hunt, but I’ve already said that.)

    7) A single national standard will inevitably lead to teacher-union control of the standards, since the unions are more powerful inside the USDOE than they are in state legislatures.

    8) A single national standard will inevitably drive us further into divisive culture wars, as groups with different cultural agendas mobilize to influence the standards in their direction.

    9) And much more I don’t have time to type in!

    Here are a few links to get you started:

  6. […] short, resistance is futile for any state that wants federal grants or waivers, responds Greg Forster on Jay Greene’s […]

  7. […] This Deal Is Getting Worse All the Time ( Related posts: […]

  8. Grumpy says:

    Greg, the first answer in your comment should be all the reason that anyone needs. It’s illegal and more than likely in direct conflict with the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Taking it a step farther, once passed laws only expand eventually covering a lot more than was intended. There is always a next logical step.

    My guess is that only be a matter of time until some type of social/political engineering gets introduced into the common standards. California might insist on gay sex, North Carolina might insist evolution be taken out of the curriculum. Depending on the administration in power any given time both are possible.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Rick Hess has been pressing this point. Duncan is setting precedents that Dems will regret the next time they’re out of power.


    Have you read this?

    Below is a survey from the Fordham Institute you might want to complete and give your opinion on school “choice”. Some interesting facts about Fordham you might not know:

    Fordham is headed by Chester Finn, former employee of William Bennett who headed up Ronald Reagan’s Department of Education. Finn is on Bennett’s radio show regularly.
    William Bennett defied Reagan and increased the Department of Education’s budget. (search “William Bennett” within the document).
    Fordham is now teaming up with the Center for American Progress (as indicated in the survey), a George Soros funded organization.

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