Despite Barresi’s support for core curriculum, some conservatives are wary

Oklahoma is participating in development of a national core curriculum for public education. A year ago, after the Legislature sought to create the elements needed for a “race to the top” grant from the federal government, Oklahoma moved to join the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi has worked to develop the common standards in Oklahoma.
According to the PARCC group, Oklahoma “adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, and became a Governing State in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers in the spring of 2011. Leaders from Oklahoma’s K-12 and higher education communities were engaged in the development of PARCC’s proposal for common, next-generation assessments.”

However, raising dissenting voices to Oklahoma efforts to join the national curriculum push is the activist group Restore Oklahoma Public Education (ROPE). Jenni White and members of her group are opposing the Sooner State’s involvement in development of a common core curriculum across America. 

While White and her members are known as strongly conservative in their inclinations, the ROPE group is not separated from the mainstream of conservative policy advocacy in this matter, as reflected in a rising tide of questions about the core curriculum agenda. 

A lengthy treatise against the national core curriculum is presented in a “national manifesto,” a document that now has scores of leading conservatives as signatories.
Briefly put, the manifesto challenges the assumption in various national education journals that a common core curriculum is desirable. The manifesto contends: 

“First, there is no constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national assessments, or national curricula. … Second, there is no consistent evidence that a national curriculum leads to high academic achievement. … Third, the national standards on which the [Obama] administration is planning to base a national curriculum are inadequate. …” 

The manifesto continues, “Fourth, there is no body of evidence for a ‘best’ design for curriculum sequences in any subject. … Fifth, there is no evidence to justify a single high school curriculum for all students. …”

Some of the best known conservative education reform advocates and their allies have signed the manifesto, including such leading lights as John Agresto, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, Abigail Thernstrom, Robert W. Sweet, Jr., Dr. Richard Epstein, Dr. John Chubb, John Eastman and many others, including both Michael Carnuccio and Brandon Dutcher of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

In this year’s legislative session, ROPE has supported House Bill 1714, a proposal by state Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City. The measure was intended to repeal Senate Bill 2033, one of the bills that were in the “RTT” process last year.
H.B. 1714 did not get a hearing in the House Education Committee, and will probably die when the Legislature adjourns for the year, either this week or next. 

However, White told CapitolBeatOK her group will continue to press against what it deems the failings in a “one size fits all” curriculum. 

Organizations pressing against the common core curriculum drive around the U.S. include the Association of American Educators, The Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, The Heritage Foundation, Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, American Textbook Council, Americans for Limited Government, Pacific Research Institute, National Taxpayers Union, Washington Policy Center, Foundation for Educational Choice, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, Heartland Institute, John Locke Foundation, Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute and the Reason Foundation. 

Nationally, the issue has heated up a bit in recent days. As conservative arguments against the national curriculum have intensified, Peter Cunningham, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education circulated comments posted on the Education Week website:
“Just for the record: we are for high standards, not national standards and we are for a well-rounded curriculum, not a national curriculum. There is a big difference between funding development of curriculum — which is something we have always done — and mandating a national curriculum — which is something we have never done. And yes — we believe in using incentives to advance our agenda.”

Jay P. Greene, an education “blogger” has been pounding a theme, namely that the U.S. Department of Education is violating the law with its advocacy of a national core curriculum. On Friday (May 13), he wrote: “So, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education says that they are funding development of curriculum, but the Department is expressly not authorized to direct, supervise, or control curriculum.  They are also prohibited from directing, supervising, or controlling textbooks or other instructional materials.” 

Greene contends the federal curriculum activity violates the law which created the U.S. Department of Education. That law states (in section 103b): “No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.” (The emphasis added is in Greene’s blog.)