Originally Sent: 7/3/2014
July 3, 2014
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The Common Core: What Parents of High School Students Should Know
July marks the beginning of another chapter for HSLDA’s Homeschooling through High School program as we welcome Carol Becker as our new High School Consultant. Carol homeschooled her two children through their high school graduations, and she brings much experience, wisdom, and enthusiasm to the position. We look forward to Carol sharing her expertise as co-author of future high school newsletters.
For this edition of the newsletter, we’ve invited Will Estrada, HSLDA’s director of Federal Relations, to be our guest writer and share with you his thoughts on the Common Core and its impact on homeschoolers. Will has a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and he has been HSLDA’s point person in its efforts to oppose the Common Core.
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What is the Common Core?
By now, you have probably heard a lot about the Common Core State Standards Initiative (Common Core). But in spite of all the information, you probably are still unsure how or even if the Common Core will affect your high school student and her hopes for college, career, or both.
Briefly, the Common Core is the name for model math and English language arts standards for public schools. Drafted several years ago in large part due to federal government incentives and pressure from policy makers, Common Core has been fully adopted by 45 states since 2011. Only one state (Oklahoma) even held a legislative vote on these new academic standards. All of the rest quietly adopted the Common Core through action by their governors or state education departments. You can read more about the history of the Common Core.
Although Common Core is not curriculum, changing academic standards results in publishers redesigning curricula and standardized tests to “align” with the new standards. As a result, tinkering with school standards forces changes throughout all of education.
HSLDA has led the fight against the Common Core, primarily because we see this as another attempt to nationalize our nation’s educational system. We strongly believe that redesigning our nation’s educational system to be under the centralized control of elites instead of local school boards accountable to parents will ultimately force homeschoolers to follow the same standards and curricula.
Our analysis and many other materials on the Common Core (as well as suggestions for how you can join us in opposing it) are available online. In addition to HSLDA, allied organizations and researchers have focused on other concerns with the Common Core, such as dumbed-down content standards and politicizing education.
Due to the work of parents across the nation, four more states—Indiana, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Louisiana—have rejected the Common Core in the past months. A total of nine states are now free of the Common Core, and it is very likely that more will leave the Common Core in the near future.
The key point for homeschoolers to understand, however, is that the Common Core does not currently affect homeschool freedom. The Common Core affects public schools only, and homeschools have never been required to use the same curricula as the public schools. Nothing has changed in this regard at least not yet. HSLDA is cautiously optimistic that as more states reject the Common Core, the chances of the Common Core ultimately becoming a national curriculum are fading away.
How Will the Common Core Affect Homeschool Teens?
The three main concerns for homeschool parents—particularly of high school students—is whether certain tests will be aligned to the Common Core and whether colleges and employers will choose students who have completed a Common Core-aligned education over students who have graduated from a non-Common Core homeschool program.
1. Common Core aligned tests: It is becoming increasingly apparent that the two top national tests for college-bound seniors—the ACT and SAT—have been at the very least influenced by the Common Core. The Atlantic magazine recently put together an excellent analysis of this concern.
What does this mean for your teen? Will students who have not been taught with Common Core-aligned materials have trouble on the ACT and SAT? To help answer this question, HSLDA notified our members about a webinar on the redesigned SAT with David Coleman, the president of the College Board (and also one of the architects of the Common Core). For parents interested in knowing more about HSLDA's evaluation of the recent webinar, click here.
David Coleman assured listeners in the webinar that the redesigned SAT will not hurt students who are independent of the Common Core. HSLDA has also been discussing the redesigned SAT with the College Board, who has assured us that the questions will be written so that all students—including homeschool students—will not be at a disadvantage. The College Board knows that many students in our nation attend private schools and homeschools, which do not utilize Common Core-aligned materials. At this point, College Board has stated that the redesigned SAT will reflect this reality.
HSLDA and our high school consultants continue to work to protect homeschoolers planning to take the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. Diane Kummer, our high school consultant, has recently written about the redesigned SAT, and we will continue to provide updates in the near future.
2. College enrollment: When the Common Core was first unveiled, one of HSLDA’s biggest fears was that the “seamless transition from K-12 to college and career” envisioned by proponents would cause problems for homeschoolers and other students who do not receive a Common Core-aligned education.
Due in part to more states withdrawing from the Common Core, the scenario appears unlikely that colleges would favor Common Core-aligned graduates over other high school graduates. The one exception continues to be local community colleges.
We have seen numerous small community colleges cause problems for homeschool graduates, particularly regarding eligibility for federal student aid. Should your student experience similar difficulties, please contact HSLDA for assistance. We are able to resolve most of these issues quickly because federal law is clear that homeschoolers are eligible for federal student aid.
You can see our detailed analysis on homeschool eligibility for federal student aid online.
However, HSLDA remains concerned that small community colleges in states which have adopted the Common Core may discriminate against homeschoolers and other students from schools which have not adopted the Common Core. Again, if you run into any problems related to the Common Core when enrolling your homeschool graduate in a college or university, please contact HSLDA for assistance.
3. Employment: Many supporters of the Common Core come from the ranks of large corporations. Their stated purpose in advocating for the Common Core stems from business leaders, who have seen the deteriorating fruit of our nation’s failing public schools. Many graduates are unable to meet the basic skills needed to be effective and competitive in today’s workforce.
Unfortunately, the Common Core will not remedy this situation; and in fact, we believe that it will worsen the quality of public education.
The good news for homeschool parents is homeschooling has consistently produced graduates who are (on average) academically and socially ahead of their public school peers. In addition to focusing on educational excellence, homeschool parents may also want to proactively search out opportunities such as internships and extracurricular activities that will give their students a head-start in developing skills and acquiring experience from people in their fields of interest.
Regardless of what new education “reform” the public schools adopt, homeschooling thrives when parents—not education “elites”—provide the one-on-one instruction tailored to your individual teen’s needs and aspirations. This unique focus continues to be the heart of homeschooling.
— William A. Estrada, Esq.
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Thanks, Will! Join us next month as we explain how to create a four-year high school plan for your teen and the benefits of tracking your teen’s progress.
Happy 4th of July and a very special thank you to all of our military families who sacrifice to preserve our freedoms,
Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
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