iVoices: Rural School "Chief" Gerald Keefe Sounds Off Against National Standards

Well, we’ve reached the week leading up to Colorado’s critical final decision about whether to adopt the Common Core Standards. This decision could end up marking a significant crossroads concerning K-12 education in Colorado.

A few weeks ago I pointed out that the Denver Post had caught up to me in noticing the whole Common Core debate. Their front-page story introduced many readers to Kit Carson School District superintendent (or “chief”) Gerald Keefe, who has led the charge for local control from the rural Eastern Plains.

Keefe very recently joined my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow for a discussion of a resolution his school board has adopted, a resolution for which he has begun to gain support. Listen to the 10-minute iVoices podcast (MP3) as the rural superintendent explains why he is resolved not only to oppose Common Core and national standards but also to break away from state-mandated curriculum requirements.

August 2 is the deadline for the Colorado State Board of Education to decide whether to adopt Common Core, and the lure of Federal Race to the Top dollars likely will play a role (signing on to Common Core is a prerequisite). According to State Board member Peggy Littleton, a strong opponent of adopting Common Core, she and her colleagues have received more than 400 letters and emails from Coloradans expressing opposition.

If you’re interested in more of the latest information and insights on the debate from a national level, check out the new comments from some education experts on whether Common Core standards represent “an effective reform tool.” Interestingly, the University of Colorado’s Kevin Welner expresses significant skepticism, though for different reasons than Littleton and some others.

The Common Core champions at the Fordham Institute already are looking ahead to the implementation of national tests, while opponents Jay Greene and the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey have pointed out that Fordham’s Checker Finn has flip-flopped his position on national standards. Meanwhile, the venerable Rick Hess referees the debate, acknowledges the valid arguments from both sides and notes that the issue likely will stick around with us for the next couple years.

Now is the time to communicate with the State Board of Education and share any views and concerns you have about Common Core standards and the possible slide toward national assessments. After August 2, it may be too late to make much difference.