One of the most frequently-used buzz words associated with education (in the United States at least) is “budget”. We just cannot seem to escape the word when talking about public education in this country. In many respects, it seems that our country is falling apart. At the cliff’s edge of this disaster is the string holding our children and the future of this country – and that string is the money appropriated for our educational system. When I first look at Common Core, I think “uniformity”. What does uniformity create in education? A conveyor belt of teaching, and perhaps one which could cut down on costs. So, for the sake of this article, I will attempt to address how Common Core reflects the need to cut educational expenditure as greatly as possible in this country, while maintaining, as best we can, a solid instructional foundation for our children.
In Common Core Standards: The New U.S. Intended Curriculum (Porter, McMaken, Hwang & Yang, 2011) the authors summarized the aim of this national program, “Common Core standards represent an opportunity to create a national curriculum in mathematics and in English language arts and reading (ELAR).” While this is understood, I see a much greater underlying theme with its inception. It is clear from international, objective analysis that the U.S. has become an average nation in terms of grade school public education. Our students’ scores pale in comparison to many nations, and the need to address this has been in the media forefront for some time (and to an exhausting extent). And Common Core is seen as the great answer – the great fix, to this national disgrace. But solutions are not so simple on such a grand stage as a land of over 300 million people.
It seems as though the financial brainiacs on Capitol Hill and of the United States Department of Education are making a big play, a hedged-bet, on the current and future education of our young ones in this country. The idea is this: create a new plan, invest heavily (seemingly) toward its implementation and reap the rewards later – rewards that would provide not only improved and competitive student scoring from assessments, but also a reeled-in and affordable public education system in our country. First there was Obamacare, now you can add Obama-Ed to the mix.
As the aforementioned article states, “The federal government is putting considerable resources behind adoption and use of the standards.” The authors elaborate further, breaking down the investment to improve our public education’s cost and performance:
“… the USDE recently awarded $330 million in Race to the Top funds to two consortia, representing the majority of states, to help develop assessments aligned with the common standards. The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Coalition, representing 31 states, received $160 million, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, representing 26 states, received $170 million (12 states are members of both consortia).” (p. 104)
These and other investments in Common Core are creating an economy of scale that benefits limited (or controlled) expenditure. Uniform textbooks, curriculum and assessment will bring down costs. The aim is efficiency, while at the same time arguing that these changes will help our children and improve their abilities! Which will come first, however – the results, or the savings?
There are many obstacles we citizens face in the attempt to improve our children’s education. Women dominate the teaching profession, and gender inequality still remains, so that women make less on the dollar than men. Is that why teacher salaries are so low? If no one wants to become a teacher, due to the paltry pay, it will be very difficult to ensure that our country has not only the best curriculum in place, but also the best minds and social-developers facilitating the learning of that curriculum! As for now, we are nodding our heads and accepting that Common Core is the best thing for our children, but we must also be aware that it may just be the best thing for our country’s wallet.