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FIRST-PERSON: A better idea than Common Core

DALLAS (BP) — Despite the United States ranking high among industrialized nations in spending on education, American students continue to post mediocre results on international tests.

East Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea consistently score the highest, causing members of the U.S. educational elite and parents alike to scramble to raise the achievement level of American students.

What is decidedly not the answer is to adopt national standards and a national curriculum, but that’s exactly what education planners say we need. We’ve been trying this for two decades with dismal results.

Early in his first term, President Obama earmarked $4.35 billion in federal stimulus spending to Race to the Top, an education initiative that doled out financial rewards to states that adopted what became the Common Core standards.

Forty-five states adopted the standards, but now they’re seeing that it’s just another top-down hammer that causes teachers to spend the bulk of class time teaching to the test.

Common standards end up dumbing down the curriculum and depressing results. In attempting to erase differences between urban and suburban schools, the government redistributes education spending from suburb to city. Equalizing education across the nation pulls good districts down.

In recent decades, we’ve had Goals 2000, School-to-Work, Careers and No Child Left Behind. These federal programs were planned by elites who think they know what is best for our kids. Common Core is another iteration of the failed idea that the federal government should control education.

So how do we improve our system of education? The Center for American Prosperity applauds a movement beginning to take shape in the United States to competitively pay teachers according to their quality of instruction. They say, “Merit pay promises to revolutionize public education by rewarding good teachers for their excellence while exposing poor ones.”

Top-performing countries like China and Singapore pay teachers well and give them significant freedom to choose textbooks, develop lesson plans and experiment with teaching methods.

By contrast, American teachers must comply with a growing body of standards and tests that leaves little room for using their God-given creativity in teaching.

Control of school curricula should return to local communities where the Constitution places it, making it easier for teachers to be allowed to teach.
Penna Dexter is a regular panelist and frequent guest host of “Point of View,” a nationally syndicated issues-oriented talk radio program. Her weekly radio commentaries air on the Moody Broadcasting Network and Bott Radio Network. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Penna Dexter