GUEST COLUMN: Is it a 'Race to the Top' or a quick plunge to the bottom?

January 21, 2010

By Peggy Littleton

As to all the hoopla focused on Colorado’s application for Race To The Top (RTTT) today, let it be clear that not all members of the Colorado State Board of Education are in support of this submission. First, let me point out that under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which is still the law of the land today, there is a prohibition against creating a national testing system, a prohibition against creating a huge national database, and a prohibition against creating national standards. So they’re using stimulus funds for RTTT to wire around the clear intent of what Congress has said, which is in violation of NCLB. Using the ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Funds), which will put future generations in debt with money that is yet to be printed, is not a solution for solving the budget crunch we feel here in the education of Colorado’s children. The United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, seems intent on getting things done quickly and behind closed doors. I am of the mindset that if we act in haste, we may repent in leisure.

While Colorado’s application has many aspects that are appealing to reform in education, including allowing charter schools to be recipients of the funding via the district plans, and educator preparation, I am not in favor of signing on to adopt Common Core standards that are not yet even written.

It reminds me of a loan officer asking a client to “trust me, just sign on the bottom line” before the terms of the loan are clearly written. What person in his or her right mind would do that? Colorado just spent two years in a very transparent process reviewing and updating all 13 Colorado Model Content Standards, which were adopted by the State Board of Education Dec. 10. The standards are clearer, higher and fewer and reflect what Coloradans say they want their children to know and be able to do by the time they graduate from high school and transition into postsecondary and workforce readiness. If Colorado standards are just fine, why won’t the Feds allow for a box to check in the RTTT application that allows for states to use their own standards if they “meet or exceed” the Common Core. (Other than the fact that they are not yet written, so it would be impossible to compare them!). We already know that the federal government, or at the least consortiums of states, wants to develop assessments to assess the Common Core. The scary progression continues… National Common Core, common assessment, will inevitably lead to a national curriculum. Seems to me that other countries in the past have done this and the effect was, well, indoctrination.

We don’t need a takeover of Colorado’s schools by the federal government. Parents should be asking, “Just where would common, everyday people go to testify about national standards?” or “Just where would parents go to complain if their son or daughter came home from school after having been taught some outrageously biased and/or erroneous curricula built upon the national standards?”

How hard would it be for a parent to “tackle” the entire Beltway?

I am not Sen. Mary Landrieu, this is not the Louisiana purchase, and I say that Colorado’s kids are not for sale!



Littleton is a member of the Colorado Board of Education, and a candidate for the El Paso County Board of Commissioners for District 5. Readers can e-mail Littleton at:

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