Concerns with Your Schools Textbooks? Talk to Your School Board

In a letter to the Helena Independent Record, Barbara Rush, a Montana resident, argues the state’s education standards are not written by state or local authorities. Instead, the letter claims, they are developed by federal agencies, non-government organizations and influenced by the United Nations.

“I read the history and geography textbooks that are aligned to Common Core,” Rush says. “I was surprised to find that geography is now environmental science, sociology, history and just about every other subject.”

Unfortunately, Rush seems to misunderstand what the Common Core State Standards are. The Common Core does not cover science or social studies, as Rush suggests. The standards only set expectations for math and English language arts.

Moreover, the suggestion that Common Core State Standards were written by federal authorities is wrong. The standards were created by educators and experts from across the country, including Montana. After a thorough vetting process that included public review and input, an independent validation committee certified the standards. Only then were they adopted by states.

Since then, most states have continued to review, fine tune and build on the Common Core framework, putting their stamp of ownership on the standards. Common Core State Standards “are a floor, not a ceiling,” Karen Nussle explains. “And they were absolutely designed to allow states to tweak, amend and generally customize them in order to meet local needs.”

The Every Student Succeeds Act further ensures state and local control over education standards and accountability systems. Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, noted, “If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.”

By setting rigorous academic expectations and giving state leaders and local school boards full control over how best to meet those, the Common Core ensures parents can take any concerns to local educators. In Ms. Rush’s case, for example, she should be able to raise her dissatisfaction with the textbooks in her schools with her school board.

In fact, former Alabama Governor Bob Riley once had concerns similar to Rush’s. “I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer to something—I asked someone who does know,” Gov. Riley explained. It turned out, “the decision to use [his] grandson’s textbooks was not made by some central federal entity that dictates what our children and grandchildren read.” Instead, it was made in his school district, and he was able to raise the issue with his grandson’s teachers—just as Ms. Rush can.