A 501(c)3 Ministry

Equip and Common Core

The hottest topic in education these last few years has been the issue known as “Common Core”. Properly, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is a set of standards produced by the National Governor’s Association in consultation with the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were created through significant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2009, President Obama’s Race to the Top Initiative offered 4.35 billion dollars in grant funding to the states as an incentive to adopt the standards. Within two years, 46 states had adopted the standards. Florida’s State Board of Education voted in July of 2010 to adopt the standards with a target full-implementation date of the 2014-2015 school year. So what’s all the hubbub?

Originally, the vast majority of states reviewed the standards, and finding nothing much objectionable and desiring their piece of the funding pie, adopted the standards without a fuss. Later, groups of parents and educators began raising questions about the efficacy of the standards and the desirability of outside control of local education.

Common Core The truth is that this is not as simple a subject as many in the Christian community suggest. It is useful to divide the conversation into two parts: educational and political.

Education

As a general matter, Equip Education is motivated by the desire to produce God-honoring young people. Our first love is Jesus Christ, therefore within the Christian worldview. We read great books, teach creation as opposed to naturalism, consider big ideas in the light of Scripture, and try to build young people committed to living for Jesus.

Having said that, from an educational perspective some of our materials align with Common Core standards but do not utilize the frustration causing common core methodologies found in so many public schools these days. We employ the methodologies which have worked for students across millenia. We must study function notation in Algebra and that is a CCSSI standard. In fact, many of the common core standards correctly specify areas of knowledge needed by students. The Common Core standards were developed expressly for the purpose of preparing students for college and the workforce. Those are both good goals of education. They are not the best goals, but they are good goals. So most of the Common Core standards are not inherently invidious.

Therefore, Equip does not choose materials based on the presence or absence of CCSSI alignment. We choose materials we believe best serve the overall mission: the production of God-honoring individuals possessed of the best possible education in the traditions of western civilization. If some of our materials happen to be aligned, so be it.

Common Core On a side note, one of the places that adjustments related to Common Core alignment may be encountered by home educators is in the makeup of the college entrance examination known as the SAT. However, we are skeptical of the test changing much due to Common Core alignment. Our experience with that test is that the questions are already worded so differently from what students normally encounter that any changes due to alignment will be difficult to identify. Unless they throw out the whole test and start over (extremely unlikely in our opinion), we'll continue to prepare for it as we've always done.

Politics

From a political perspective, Equip strenuously opposes all federal attempts to control education. We know students are best served when educational decisions are made by local educational officials in consultation with parents. As we see it, the Common Core standards are dangerous mostly because they may constitute a powerful lever for the use of bureaucrats in Washington to continue their social engineering experiments on the American people. We will advocate against the federal control of education (and Common Core as one of the levers to that control) whenever possible.

It should be noted that there remain two formidable ramparts between worldly educational standards and home educated children in Florida. First, decisions of the Florida State Board of Education do not apply to private schools or home schools. In order for their decisions to impact us, legislative action is required to extend the authority of the State Board of Education to private and home schools – highly unlikely at the moment given the makeup of the Florida legislature. Secondly, the CCSSI is not a curriculum taught in class but rather a set of standards to which the chosen curriculum must adhere. In other words, the standards are just standards; they are not a collection of approved textbooks and materials designed for instruction in the classroom. Certainly, the standards are spawning numerous changes in textbooks and materials, but so far there is no “approved list” of materials as a part of the standards. The standards may mutate into a required curriculum one day, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Overall, we agree with the caution and skepticism found in the Christian community related to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. We do not agree that one-size-fits-all education is in the best interests of individual students or the nation as a whole. Educational decisions should be made by parents, teachers, and local administrators in collaboration.

The bottom line for Equip Education Ministries: our children display the image of God. We will never render them unto Caesar. Never.



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