Competency Based Education CBE was supposed to teach our kids workforce skills.  Skills that they could use once they graduated and moved on to a career.  However, those of us who’ve researched Competency Based Ed. realize that this new education model isn’t new. It’s the old failed Outcome Based Education (OBE) model from the 90’s.

OBE was the fad that tried to take public schools from a liberal arts model to a dumbed down workforce model.  Parents quickly discovered the academics were being watered down and dumbed down “skills” were now the focus.

Some skills could be useful, but more and more parents are reporting on the dumbed down skills their children have to now learn in the classroom.

That’s what is happening with the Common Core education reform.  This redesign encompasses not just dumbed down Common Core Standards, but a complete redesign in public ed.

CBE is now in classrooms throughout New Hampshire.  This is why parents, students and teachers in Nashua are starting to speak out.  Implementing the new federally pushed competency grading has created an uproar.  This grading system is subjective because it’s difficult to assign an objective grade to collaboration or creativity.

There are all kinds of skills that are now considered 21st century skills students need to graduate.  But as I’ve noted in the past, many are simply dumbed down skills that do nothing to help students academically and shift more time away from literacy and academics.

Today I received a message from a parent in New Hampshire concerned about an assignment her  son was required to do:
my youngest (g. 6) had a summer reading assignment. He had to read “I Survived 9/11”, which is g.4. level reading. Today, I learned he has to make a “game” about the book. It’s not a vocabulary game but it’s a board game – where students have to figure out if they have the skills to survive.”

Let’s begin with the fact that the book assigned was two grades below his current grade.  Then he is going to make up a “game” about the book. The objective seems to be that the students have to learn survival skills if a plane were to hit a high rise they happen to be in at some point in their life.

While survival skills are certainly a good thing to have, is this the new role of the public school?  Is this the kind of education we want to provide 6th grade students? One where they have to put themselves in the position of a 9/11 victim and told they need to figure out how to survive.  Do adults know this and do they have these “21st century skills?”

There is a great deal of time spent on projects now.  I asked this parent how much time do you think the students will be spending on making up a game versus reading quality literature? How much time will he work on a project versus learning the academics in that core subject?  Is it no wonder our kids fall slowly behind their international peers?

It’s also important to know that the “I Survived series is a big part of Common Core curriculum for ELA for grades 3-5.”  As I’ve been saying, the Common Core Education reform is more about dumbing down public ed then it is about elevating literacy and academic excellence.

The parent was deeply disturbed by the thought of her child being put in the position of someone being attacked by terrorists.  She works with people who survived 9/11 and who were the first responders – chaplains, social workers, etc.  These parents lost several friends to 9/11, and said. “this feels so wrong on so many levels.”

It feels wrong because there is also the element of psychology built into this assignment. How will kids respond to this situation?  I don’t know but I do know that when schools play psychologist, it often times has, dangerous results.

Back when death education was the fad in public education, schools thought it was a good idea to talk about death.  Some schools took kids to morgues and had them write their own obituaries.  Good teachers with little or no background in child psychology were playing mind games with these kids.  In the end, some of the student reported suicidal thoughts.

It’s not up to unlicensed school personnel to play psychologist, especially when covering a horrific event in American history.  It’s up to them to teach children at an appropriate age the historical facts and information. In other words, the focus should be on cultural literacy, not on psychological games.

Competency Based Ed is part of the Federal Education Reform.  It’s been called; Outcome Based Ed, 21st Century Skills and School to Work.  Over the years, the same failed fads come back with a new name and those promoting it never reveal to parents the failures from the past.

Parents do have some things they can do to fight these reforms.  First ask those running for office if they support the dumbed down Common Core Ed reform.  Listen to them talk about education.  Are they supporting the focus on workforce training versus academics?  If so, call them out on their support for illiteracy.

Parents can also replace these dumbed down assignments thanks to a law that was passed a few years ago.  HB542 allows parents to replace objectionable materials with another one. offers free lesson plans for students.   The games offered on that web site do not engage a child in psychological games, but instead teaches them the academics in civics. Many home-schoolers use that cite because their focus is on literacy in the core subjects.

Parents should look at their school policy that is based on HB542, sometimes it’s included in policy IGE.

Parents who are dealing with this in their public schools need to be able to identify the dumbing down and there are ways to improve the academic outcomes even when their school administrators and Governor is failing them.

9/11 is a day in history that we will not forget.  Students need to learn the facts surrounding this horrific day in our history.  However this does not give the education reformers an open target to use children in these psychological games.

Ann Marie Banfield began volunteering as Cornerstone’s Education Liaison in 2009. As an education researcher and activist she took her decade long research on education to Concord to lobby on behalf of parental rights and literacy. Working with experts in education from across the country, she offers valuable insight into problems and successes in education. She holds a B.A. in Business Management from Franklin University in Columbus Ohio. Ann Marie and her husband have three children and reside in Bedford, NH