Standardizing Students Part 2

State School Board members are currently reviewing a new set of nationalized education standards. Some say that this “one-size-fits-all” form of learning will forever change classroom dynamics.

News 4’s Skylar Zwick has looked closer into “The Common Core” program, in Part 2 of our special series, “Standardizing Students”.

The Council of State School Officers and the National Governors Association are two of the primary groups that are in favor of “The Common Core” program. Additionally there are non-profit groups, including the College Board and ACT, that have significantly increased their revenue by supporting and sponsoring this initiative. These groups have also said to have received millions of dollars in private funding to create and institute “The Common Core”.

“If Alabama, being part of the U.S., is going to be competitive with foreign nations, it struck the governors of this country and my colleagues and myself, being the State Superintendent of Alabama, and my colleagues said it would be good if we had a more common set of standards that are of a high level,” commented Dr. Joe Morton, State Schools Superintendent.

“It would save money, they would say. But I also say it’s narrowing everything and completely standardizing everything, and American children are not widgets in a factory,” added State School Board member, Betty Peters.

One of the big questions remains: How are we going to pay for the initiative?

“We'd have to work with the legislature to get funding to expand professional development opportunities for our teachers,” adds another State School Board member.

Peters says that School Board members and teachers, in Alabama and across the country, think that “The Common Core” initiative was created by special interest groups. One such group that has been mentioned is Pearson, a company who creates testing, and writes and distributes textbooks. They have been involved, and they are funded in part by Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.

Apparently, there has been a lot of private foundation money and federal stimulus money that Congress never earmarked for this program, and that Congress may not even know about.

In fact, according to the Washington Post, “since January 2008, more than 250 Gates grants have targeted causes, such as charter schools, testing research, data systems, science and math education, and common academic standards.”

Another financial incentive that is said to be driving core standards is President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative. The effectiveness and fairness of the president’s initiative is a matter of debate that only the State School Board can really settle.

And, despite having test and text writers as sponsors and Bill Gates funding an initiative that could be directly connected to computer programs designed by Microsoft, there is still another question: What will national core standards mean for our students and teachers?

Some portions of core standards are already in place. There is a high school graduation exam and an end of course exam. These aspects and others are becoming more pre-defined, and many teachers claim to have no freedom in the process.

Public hearings will take place in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile. You can also read more about the core standards at WTVY.COM. Also feel free to send your thoughts to your local school board members.

Tomorrow, in the final part of “Standardizing Students”, Skylar sits down with parents, teachers, and students to get their opinions on the future of education in Alabama.

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