Common Core for Preschoolers?

800px-School-education-learning-1750587-hHeather Crossin of Hoosiers Against Common Core did yeoman’s work earlier this week in alerting Indiana parents to potential problems with the U.S. Department of Education’s new Preschool Development Grants program.  Her post on the issue details how the grants will likely “bribe” states into implementing full-day preschool programs which crowd out the many, various private programs that already exist.  It’s well worth a read.

The office of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also recently expressed concern over the grant program, engaging in a terse back-and-forth with state superintendent John White over whether the grant would end up funding Common Core.  While White insisted it would not, a couple of aspects of this program demand closer attention.

While it is true the grant selection criteria do not explicitly mention Common Core, they do award points for “[t]he extent to which the State has an ambitious and achievable plan to align High-Quality Preschool Programs supported by this grant with programs and systems that serve children from birth through third grade…”  This includes the alignment of “[c]hild learning standards and expectations.”  Since many states have already implemented the Common Core standards in elementary school grades, it is not a stretch to see how this may incentivize states to align preschool standards with the Common Core as well.

In fact, this is already happening.  In one of Gov. Jindal’s responses to Superintendent White, he notes that Louisiana’s “Early Learning Development Standards” are explicitly advertised as being aligned to the Common Core K-12 standards.  Other states applying for the Preschool Development Grants have taken steps to align their preschool standards to the Common Core as well (see, for example: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington).

In addition to encouraging states to put preschoolers on a Common Core track, the grant also comes with a data-collection provision.  Among the many program requirements is a stipulation that “[t]he State must have a Statewide Longitudinal Data System that links early childhood data with the State’s kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) data system by the end of the grant period.”  With concerns already being raised about the collection of student data at the K-12 level, it is certainly not reassuring that states will now be required to collect data on preschoolers as well.

Recent news reports have suggested that, despite drawing earlier attention to some of these problems, Gov. Jindal has since backed down from his opposition to the Preschool Development Grants.  Fortunately for Hoosiers, however, thanks in no small part to the work of Hoosiers Against Common Core, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence decided not to apply for the grant, preserving the state’s autonomy in matters relating to preschool education.  With the alarm now being raised, we hope more states will soon follow.