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Common Core’s ‘National Standard’ Threatens Autonomy, Religious Freedom, Says Education Policy Expert

Charlotte Kesl/World Bank

Catholic Education Daily - published on 01/06/14

National standards impose a “one size fits all approach” and do little toward improving the overall academic achievement of students, but rather they lead to “mediocre academics and a "race to the middle."

Faith-based schools are threatened by the national scope of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which “will negatively affect the autonomy of these schools, chipping away at the religious freedom enjoyed by faith-based schools,” writes education policy expert Maureen Van Den Berg in a new report released today.

“The Common Core and the Private School: The Overreaching Effects of a National Standard” is the third of a series of reports published at, a Cardinal Newman Society project to analyze the CCSS and its potential impact on Catholic education. Van Den Berg is a policy analyst for the American Association of Christian Schools, which serves more than 100,000 students and teachers in member schools across the United States.

She writes about private, faith-based schools:

"These schools are successful because of their ability to maintain autonomy, and…their faith-based mission. They enjoy the freedom to make decisions regarding curriculum and teaching methods that best follow their mission. This kind of “local control” allows them to best meet the individual educational needs of their students, and, in the case of faith-based schools, provide an excellent education from a religious worldview. They are not funded by tax dollars, and their accountability is to the parents—the strongest accountability a school can have."

Van Den Berg argues that national standards impose a “one size fits all approach” and do little toward improving the overall academic achievement of students, but rather they lead to “mediocre academics and a ‘race to the middle.’”

Although the federal government firmly maintains that the Common Core is a “state” initiative, Van Den Berg shows that the Department of Education has used Race for the Top funds as a“dangling carrot” before 45 states and the District of Columbia, persuading them to accept “billions of dollars” to adopt the Common Core even before many details were announced.

The impact of the Common Core on private schools is already being felt, she writes:

"The University of California already refuses to accept some high school credits that follow certain Christian-based textbooks, so it is not a far-fetched idea that colleges will accept only those course credits that follow texts and content aligned with the CCSS."

Although the Common Core is intended to improve education, ultimately national standards will stifle innovation and limit the freedom that allows the best schools to succeed:

"Education in America has always thrived because of its diversity and freedom. Improved educational quality will not result from federally-coerced uniformity. Rather, a better path to raising standards would be to establish educational options that would not only improve education in all schools but would also protect the autonomy and religious liberty that allow private, faith-based schools great success."

EducationReligious Freedom
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