Jeb Bush: Common Core is the Least We Can Do


From Human Events:

State-driven Common Core is least we can do to accelerate student learning

State-driven Common Core is least we can do to accelerate student learning

This piece was written exclusively for Human Events by Governor Jeb Bush. 

I recently finished a fascinating new book by journalist Amanda Ripley called The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. The comparisons in the book between American schools and those in higher performing countries were jarring, but not a wake-up call. We’ve had those for years, going back to Sputnik and then A Nation at Risk and now to continued poor performance on international tests – the most recent showing American students rank 14th in the world in English and 25th in math. Rather, what was fascinating about the book was the light it shed on the reasons for the growing international achievement gap – dramatically different academic cultures.

Right now in South Korea, parents labor at second jobs to save for ‘hagwagons’ – rigorous tutoring centers where students spend hours studying after their normal school day is over – to ensure their child has the best chance possible to be accepted to a top university. In Finland, teachers are selected from the best and brightest the nation has to offer, and paid as such.  The results of recruiting and rewarding excellent educators speak for themselves. In Poland, student achievement skyrocketed in the short period between 2000 and 2006 because the nation’s new leaders radically dismantled and reinvented its school system as opposed to tinkering around the edges of reform.

As America’s top competitors lengthen their leads over other countries, the U.S. is mired in a debate over whether or not the federal government had any involvement in the Common Core State Standards – a state-driven initiative to raise minimum reading and math expectations in kindergarten through twelfth grades. That’s right – policymakers across the nation have spent hours upon hours of debate on whether or not we should expect a child to understand the components of a sentence, such as identifying a noun or verb, by the end of the third grade.

The old standards in the vast majority of states do not stand up to the challenges of a 21st century economy. Common Core State Standards are the very least we must do to accelerate student learning. Instead of debating whether or not to go backward or stick with the higher standards adopted by 45 states, let’s contemplate going even farther.

Here are three paradigms that deserve more serious consideration than backing out of Common Core.

First off, the ultimate accountability in education is a parent. If unions released their grip on political levers, and parental choice was absolute, many public school reforms would be unnecessary because the desired results would be achieved through market forces. High-performing schools with the highest standards would attract students in droves, successful models would be replicated and failing schools would close.

Second, except for a rare few states, the status quo when it comes to standards is indefensible. If state leaders don’t like Common Core, they should embrace the challenge of raising their standards even higher. Common Core is merely the new floor of English and math requirements. But, states that opt out of Common Core must be intellectually honest and adopt assessments that allow for true comparability between states. I will be the first person in line to support a state’s right to adopt its own unique higher standards, as long as they are rigorously assessed and transparently reported.

A third option is the disruptive innovation of technology. A truly innovative system appeals to the highest expectations, not the lowest common denominator. An unrestrained embrace of technology, accompanied by the barrier-breaking reforms needed to unleash its potential, would fast-track student learning. This would mean upending how we fund schools today. No longer would we allocate per-pupil funding based on the completion of days in the classroom, but on whether or not a child has mastered the concepts of each course.  We can only imagine what would happen if all students, regardless of zip code, could enroll in online programs that offer the same quality of teaching found in America’s storied Ivy League institutions.

This is not to say that Common Core standards do not deserve civil, informed debate. They do. I too fear federal overreach in education, but don’t believe a state-originated solution represents that. If President Obama proposed a national curriculum, I would join millions of Americans in defeating that dangerous, misguided approach. However, the current dialogue has been dragged down by unrelated, and in some cases manufactured, issues. Common Core standards don’t change data privacy policies, don’t harm parental choice and don’t dictate what books kids are assigned to read or how teachers teach.

Let’s be clear. A lot of the fight over Common Core standards is political. Meanwhile, in states across the country, we have huge swaths of the next generation of Americans who can’t do math or can’t read. Their expectations in their own lives are too low and they are destined to never realize their full God-given potential.

Americans have never been comfortable with mediocrity and we shouldn’t start now. We’re not going to be able to sustain this exceptional country unless we challenge every basic assumption on how we educate children. The key to reigniting social mobility and maintaining American competitiveness lies in giving every child access to the best education on the planet.

Let this, not politics, be at the heart of our dialogue.


He says the fight about Common Core is political. If you call trying to keep the indoctrination generated by leftist feds out of our kids’ education, political, then I suppose he’s right.

It’s evident that Jeb Bush has taken a nasty spill that left his brain rattled, and the story has gone unreported by the media.

His statement about South Korea is very misleading.  Mainstream schooling in South Korea is free for students ages 6 to 15. Senior high school requires a small tuition payment, but most students are able to afford it and continue until graduation. While students in the United States attend school for only 180 days per year, students in South Korea attend 220 days of classes annually.

Much like in the U.S., students in South Korea can also attend tutoring sessions after school for a fee at one of the tutoring centers, also known as hagwagonsHmm..tutoring…we have that.

The reason for the ‘skyrocket’ of achievement in Polish schools is because in 1999 they changed their education system from an eight year program to a 12 year program…hmm…much like ours.

If he’s (purposely?) misleading the reader on these two topics, then it’s likely the rest of his narrative is also false.

This is about money, pure and simple. It is NOT about advancing our educational standards. Behind this push for Common Core is Bill Gates’ money, and there’s plenty of it for everyone. Jeb Bush came along just in time for his slice of the pie.


(h/t to Hardnox)

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13 Responses to Jeb Bush: Common Core is the Least We Can Do

  1. BrianR says:

    One more reason why we don’t need any more Bushes — or Clintons — cluttering up the political landscape.

  2. First off, let’s get rid of the junk distractions of X-Box and PlayStation, until the homework is done. Used to be, that honesty and integrity in the grading system was the norm, and THEN the student athlete could perform, after meeting strict academic standards, and not the wimped down standards we find today in the high schools and the colleges.
    It is my firm belief, based on observations of grammar and spelling, that my “Baby Boomer” generation high school education was the equivalent of today’s college liberal arts degree~! And damn few know the difference between “their”, “There” and “They’re” or “site”, “sight” or “cite” ~! What a waste of a teacher’s time~!
    I do believe that the relaxation of discipline in the classroom, as well as a reduced emphasis on the fundamentals, is the responsibility and the fault of my generation, and the generations that followed.
    That said, allowing the student the prerogative of following their interests IN ADDITION TO meeting the demands of the fundamentals, will have a major impact on the educational standards required in today’s world.

    And NO. I do NOT have a college degree. I DO HAVE various certificates of extra-curricular achievements. NOR were they “Patty Cake” courses~!

    • Kathy says:

      Good rant, Grouchy! There are so many examples, especially on FB, of how bad grammar is these days. I see it all the time, Our classrooms are not focused on the right things, and we desperately need to get back to basics, and get far, far away from wearing burkas in class to ‘see how it feels.’ Give me a break.

  3. Clyde says:

    You watch. The moronic GOP will nominate this tool in 2016. This “common core” is ROTTEN to the core. Why are not the standards from even 50 years ago upheld? This nothing more than YET ANOTHER Bush showing his liberalism, and THAT is the LAST damn thing we need. Good post, albeit smoking the pisstivity meter.

    • Kathy says:

      Agreed, Clyde, it pegged the meter, and there’s nothing common about this core. Cores go in the trash when you’re done with the main part. Trash it is.

  4. Hardnox says:

    In my opinion no amount of money thrown at education will ever be enough until you remove the parasitic lefty educators out of the equation. Bush like most lefties believe that more money equals better education. Well, if that were true why do most inner city kids lack basic reading and writing skills at almost $30K per kid per year with teachers making near $100K?

    The answer is to abolish the Department of Education (which has never educated a single kid) and return that stewardship back to the states.

    I’ve had enough of the Bushes, especially since this one awarded some bullshit award to Hitlary who has made a career bashing Jeb’s dad and brother,

    I am sick and tired of the bullshit.

    Btw, good comment.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks. It’s unions, Boss, that’s all. We don’t have them down here and our teachers don’t make that kind of money. Even our good ones.

      I’ve had enough of the Bushes too, and this lefty needs to turn tail and head home, we’re not buying his bs. He’s sadly mistaken if he thinks this will get him in the running for 2016.

      We’re tired of these phonies saying what they think we want to hear, while someone else foots the bill. Especially the guys with the ‘big name’ who think they add value to the conversation simply because of their name.

  5. Mrs AL says:

    “Common Core.” Really? Who came up with that title? The only thing common about anything called common core is the desire to put everyone in the same box, teach them the same thing, lead them to think the same thoughts, and on and on it goes. Sorry, but the mere name turns me off completely. EVERYBODY gets a trophy, an allowance from the government, and on and on it goes.

    Actually Kathy, this is important and I appreciate your posting this. Despite my spouting off, I needed to read about this subject.

    • Kathy says:

      “lead them to think the same thoughts” – that’s exactly what they’re doing, but it’s not the same as teaching. Good comment, Miz A.

  6. Buck says:

    On a recent trip to Arkansas to visit my daughter I stopped for gas. Noting the gallons and the trip meter I went inside and asked to borrow a pen and paper. The clerk watched me write down the mileage and gallons and asked me if I wanted to use her computer. I politely declined, saying I probably didn’t know how to use it. She watched me figure out my mileage and when I handed her pen back she said, “They don’t teach that in school here.” I asked, “They don’t teach long division.” She said no, they only taught how to use a calculator.
    And I thought we were backward here because they quit teaching Trig….

    • Kathy says:

      That and other basic skills are long gone. We have cashiers everywhere who can’t make change unless the machine tells them how much.

      • I LOVE to ask cashiers, “How much do you owe me?” The response is usually, You owe US $xxx.xx” I’ll hand them my payment, and tell them, “You owe ME,,,,” whatever the amount of change would be. RARELY, does anyone NOT have to use the computer to agree with me.
        Buck, Kathy,,, I’m sure you, as myself, wish for the competence we used to take for granted, and is now so sadly missing from our society. And I know, darn well, that we are not alone.