"The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students' achievement." -- Brookings Institution.

"Common Core's standards not only present a serious threat to state and local education authority, but also put academic quality at risk." -- Heritage Foundation Issue Brief, by University of Arkansas Education Reform Professor Sandra Stotsky.

As another school year concludes, attentive classroom teachers, education-policy specialists and parents from across the political spectrum have expressed dissatisfaction, ranging to alarm, over the "Common Core State Standards Initiative" (CCSSI) being rushed into K-12 schools nationwide, including the San Ramon Valley schools our children attend.

CCSSI, the latest federal incursion into state and local direction of the educational process, is being insinuated via linkage to "No Child Left Behind" waivers and billions in "Race to the Top" grants, despite three federal laws prohibiting U.S. government control of curriculum.

Common Core is recognizably a top-down retread of the Orwellian scheme promoted by activist Marc Tucker's infamous 1992 "Dear Hillary" letter. Tucker wanted "to remold the entire American system" into "a seamless web," extending "cradle to grave" as "the same system for everyone." Labor-market boards "at the local, state and federal levels," checking "integrated computer-based program" records, were to determine "job matching" and "government organization for the human resources agenda."


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Similarly, CCSSI relies upon intrusive "state longitudinal data systems" tracking of student performance. Meanwhile, 2012 federal Education Department rules gutted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), permitting CCSSI not only to track personal student information over more than 400 data points, but to share that information with other government agencies and private entities, and without parental consent.

Common Core's' nationalized content standards are themselves repressively drab and pedestrian. They reduce English-class reading activity, for example, to just 50 percent literature, with 50 percent nonfiction and "informational text."

As is now, students see too little of the great classics, and gain too small an appreciation of Western and American culture.

Common Core's math standards are also remarkably deficient, so bad that Stanford University mathematics professor James Milgram, the single academic mathematician on the Common Core's Validation Committee, refused to sign off on them, saying they'd leave students two years behind their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

Naturally, Common Core provides a new taxpayer-funded bonanza to textbook publishers, testing and tracking software developers, and trainers -- an estimated $16 billion implementation cost over seven years.

Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, still actively involved in education policy, refuses support for Common Core, noting that "When Kentucky piloted the Common Core, proficiency rates dropped by 30 percent. The chancellor of the New York Board of Regents has already warned that the state should expect a sharp drop in test scores."

Thirty years ago, the "Nation at Risk" report warned that "the educational foundations of our society are being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people." The erosion continues and expensive old/new fads won't stem the tide.

What's needed instead is a return to common-sense basics, a lessening of teacher-union control of schools and school boards, and far greater degrees of competition -- with public and private dollars following students to the teachers and schools who/which demonstrate uncommon success.

Ann Miller is a loan officer and Jeanne Wisniewski is a former math and science instructor. Both are residents of Danville.