Saturday, January 10, 2015

A modest proposal: fund community colleges, pay for it by dumping the common core

President Obama's plan to fund community colleges is projected to cost about $60 billion over ten years, with the states to contribute $20 billion. I have a suggestion for coming up with the money: Dump the entire Common Core, standards, tests and all. The common core tests alone are projected to cost much more than funding community colleges: all tests must be given online, which means new equipment, constant upgrading and replacement, and each test administration will cost about $30 per student. This totals a lot more than six billion a year.  (Do the math: a new laptop every three years for 500 million students.)

There is no evidence that the brave new standards and tests will help students learn more, and no evidence that they are necessary: Studies show that American students' performance on international tests is not a result of low standards. It is strongly related to our very high level of child poverty: When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score at the top of the world.

In contrast, there is good reason to make community college more accessible. It will make college much more affordable, solving a serious problem.  Also, it will help the employers find qualified workers in areas in which there are shortages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these include areas such as carpentry, electrical work, construction, and plumbing, specialties that do not require a four-year degree. Apprenticeship programs in these areas have declined, but community colleges can fill the gap very well.

The common core is a bad plan that ignores the real problem in education. Supporting community colleges,  in contrast, can benefit employers,  reduce unemployment, and improve the lives of many families.

Post-script: I recognize the bureaucratic complexities of this plan – most of the cost of the Common Core must come from the states, not the federal government, and the President's plan calls for more federal support of community colleges. But I am sure a way can be worked out so that the community colleges benefit from the money saved by eliminating the Common Core.

The President's plan includes this: "Community colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes." If this means CCCC, a common core for community colleges, with rigid and unlreasistic standards and nonstop testing, I withdraw my proposal.


  1. I hope this idea is seriously considered!

  2. I appreciate your clear thinking, as always. You can see in between proposals and ideas to the core (NOT CCSS!)

  3. From a retired Ohio teacher: Amen.