As the “Common Core” federal reforms continue to drive education policy in our local schools, many have warned about the narrowing of curriculum.  What gets tested gets taught.  With the focus on teaching to the test, there is an urgent need to make sure the tests are testing students on important academic knowledge.  Unfortunately we do not see this as an urgent need by Common Core proponents in New Hampshire.

We know through psychometric assessments like the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the new PACE assessments, which are the next set of invalid psychometric assessments heading towards our schools, it’s unlikely we’ll see any real quality achievement tests coming from the NH Department of Education.

Curriculum will continue to be aligned to assessments that are fundamentally flawed. When those results show there needs to be more focus on dumbed down standards, the curriculum will narrow.  Schools that do not have additional resources will begin to narrow course selection and curriculum to meet the dumbed down Common Core standards.

That’s been the concern from many opponents of Common Core.  What will this do the the arts and civics courses for instance?

We’ve all seen the “man on the street” interviews with young adults who cannot answer simple and basic questions on U.S. History and Civics.  We’ve also watched Manchester’s Assistant Superintendent David Ryan explain how courses in Manchester will move away from teaching academic content in favor of political activism.

This is a recipe for increasing illiteracy in Civics education, it’s not a recipe for academic excellence.

Another example of where the dumbing down in Civics education is occurring, is in the Rochester School District.  Rochester’s board member, Kathy Dunton, recently posted this on her face book page:

Last night at the Instructional committee meeting the committee voted approve to the full board a new US History curriculum for sophomores. But, they are going to remove Civics from being a required class. The new U.S History class is suppose to integrate civics into it. We happen to have a high school US History from another district that sits on the board who think that removing Civics as a requirement is a very bad idea and that this course will not cover what is covered now. Even so, they voted to pass it on to the full board. More then half of the full board have not attended the 3 committee meetings where this change has been discussed. Unless parents start asking questions, and come out to the December board meeting this will be a done deal. They, always vote the way of the committee. And as I found out last week, some even when they vehemently disagree will vote with the board because, and I quote, “I didn’t want to be the only one.” One of the reasons for pulling Civics is that they are saying that freshmen cannot understand, or grasp it anyways…I wonder if it is because we have started teaching more global studies in the lower grades, rather then teaching US History every year, where there would be a foundation. The way it used to be done. I asked how last years low Civic scores compared to say 2010 scores before competencies and I didn’t get an answer. I guess competencies are like the second coming or something. The plan will be to bring Civics back as a stand alone course at some point, although I doubt that will happen. I am grateful my son is taking it now.

Integrated classes in history, literature, or mathematics will water down the academic content as described by the U.S. History teacher.  The students will still learn some of the content, but without a full course focused on the subject, it will be watered down to a certain degree.

Where we had problems before, the problem is about to get worse.

That’s how Common Core works in the field of high stakes testing and dumbed down academic standards.

You cannot add academic content to the U.S. History class without taking away something.  You cannot cover all that needs to be covered in a Civics class if you are integrating it into the U.S. History Class.

What should a basic civics class cover in terms of academic content?  If you don’t know, then it will be easy for a school to eliminate some basic academic content without you ever knowing.
Ask your current high school student if they know what 8th grade students had to know in 1954.

One thing’s for sure, the dumbing down of New Hampshire schools continue under Governor Hassan’s leadership and from the proponents of Common Core.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: [email protected]