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Navigating the Common Core Maze: An Interview with Will Estrada

August 4–8, 2014   |   Vol. 120, Programs 31–35

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“Getting involved in volunteer work is a good way to prevent ourselves from ignoring the needs of others around us.”—Mike Smith

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You’ve probably heard about the Common Core Curriculum Standards. But what do they actually mean for parents and students? Join your host, Mike Smith, and his guest, Will Estrada, as they discuss how the Common Core is making its way into our lives. That’s today on Home School Heartbeat.

Mike Smith: I’m joined today by Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations. Will, welcome to the program!

Will Estrada: Great to be on with you today, Mike!

Mike: Now Will, you’ve spent quite a bit of time studying the Common Core Curriculum Standards. How do these standards change education in the United States?

Will: Mike, Homeschool Legal Defense has been fighting against nationalized control of education ever since we were founded. And the Common Core, which came to our country in 2009, is really just the latest step to try and nationalize our public schools.

The Common Core was 45 states which adopted the standards. And it radically changed public education by taking it out of the hands of parents, teachers, democratically elected local school boards, and putting the decisions of how, what and when kids are taught into the hands of the elites.

Mike: Will, at this point, is Common Core turning into a national curriculum? And even more importantly, are homeschoolers being forced to use these standards?

Will: Well, the good thing is that the standard only applies right now to public schools. Homeschoolers are free. If you are concerned about the Common Core, pull your kids out of these schools and homeschool them.

The bad news is, however, it still is an attempt to nationalize education, which could one day control even what homeschoolers are being taught. That’s why we’re fighting so hard to stop the Common Core.

Mike: Well Will, thank you so much for shedding some light on this subject. Now next time we’ll be discussing the future of Common Core, so that students and parents will know what to expect. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Will Estrada is with us again today. Some parents worry that Common Core may affect national standardized tests, like the ACT and SAT. What can you tell us about that?

Will Estrada: Mike, it’s a great question. And it’s something which, as the Common Core is being advanced, HSLDA has been incredibly concerned about. At this point, it appears that the ACT has been changed to align it to the Common Core, and the SAT is being redesigned and possibly is also being aligned to the Common Core.

What does this mean for a homeschooler, however? We’ve been talking with David Coleman, who is the president of the College Board. And what he told us, Mike, was that the SAT will not be politicized, and it will not have any content changes that will hurt students who have not been educated in the Common Core.

Now, I always remember what Ronald Reagan said when he said: “Trust, but verify.” So we are continuing to dig into these claims by David Coleman to make sure that this test will not hurt homeschoolers.

One of the other concerns for homeschoolers is data privacy. And we’re looking to make sure that both the SAT, the ACT, and all of these tests will fully protect the data of all students.

I think the bottom line for a homeschooler, however, is look into these tests. Find out what’s going to be on it. We have seen homeschoolers ever since homeschooling started continue to perform incredibly well, and it’s because homeschooling works.

Mike: I find this explanation to be very helpful, and hopefully our listeners will as well. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Will Estrada, the Director of Federal Relations for HSLDA, is with us again today. Will, do you think the Common Core Standards will create any roadblocks for homeschool graduates who are going to apply for college?

Will Estrada: Mike, at this point it’s not looking like that’s going to happen. As you know, Texas, Virginia, Nebraska, and Alaska never adopted the Common Core. Minnesota only adopted the English language arts standards. And in the past few months, Indiana, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have also dropped out.

And what this means is a college which only tries to take Common Core–aligned students is really going to be losing a huge pool of prospective students from these states, as well as homeschoolers. The bottom line is that colleges want homeschool students.

Mike: Will, are some colleges more likely to cause problems for students who do not follow the Common Core?

Will: It does look like some will. We’re particularly concerned about small community colleges in states which have adopted the Common Core. Mike, as you know, we continue to fight sometimes with these college admissions officers to ensure that they know that homeschoolers are fully eligible for federal student aid. And we think there will continue to be misinformation in some of these small community colleges.

If your graduate is having trouble getting into a college, contact Home School Legal Defense.

Mike: Will, thank you very much. I think this is very helpful, especially for graduates who are starting their college search. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Will, we’ve heard some concerns that the Common Core may cause problems for homeschool graduates who are searching for jobs. Should these graduates be concerned?

Will Estrada: Mike, the problem is big business likes the Common Core. We know how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in trying to push the Common Core. The Chamber of Commerce has done the same thing. And what these businesses are trying to do is they’re trying to get graduates who know how to write a letter, who know how to think.

And the good thing is that homeschoolers, because of their individualized education, they have all of the attributes that a businessman, a businesswoman, that any person in the corporate sector would want for a prospective employee.

Mike: Well, that is encouraging, Will. So what are the key attributes that make homeschool graduates stand out in the job market?

Will: If you are a homeschool parent, wondering how to prepare your homeschool high schooler for success in today’s fast-paced job market, look for outside-the-box opportunities. Internships. Debate. Jobs outside of the home. Any way that you can prepare your homeschool student to be ready for today’s college and career environment.

You know, homeschooling works so well because we have the individualized education—we have the ability to tailor that homeschool program to that child’s unique needs. And I think that homeschoolers have the critical skills that they need for today’s college and career environment.

Mike: Well Will, thank you very much. That’s very good insight, and I’m sure our listeners will benefit from it. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: You’ve explained how Common Core will affect our students and graduates. What advice can you give to them for succeeding in this new environment?

Will Estrada: Mike, there is no question that the Common Core is significantly hurting local control, parent-led involvement in our schools. The good thing, however, is homeschoolers are still free. And as such, we can see that in this battle against Common Core, that parents, when they stand together, when they fight for their freedom, they can win.

Mike, parental involvement in any educational opportunity, but particularly in homeschooling, is the most important thing. So parents, keep being engaged in your children’s education. Keep pursuing that excellence in education that homeschoolers are so noted for.

We see what the Common Core is doing with our public schools: nationalizing our educational system, eliminating the healthy competition between states to have the best standards and instead nationalizing mediocrity. But we don’t need to be part of that. Let’s continue to pursue that excellence in education in homeschooling.

In conclusion, Mike, the Common Core is just not what our country needs. Homeschooling, individualized education, and parental involvement in education—that’s what we need in our country.

Mike: That is very sound advice, not only for the students but for all of our listeners of all ages as well. Now thank you for joining us this week. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Will Estrada

A homeschool graduate from Pennsylvania, Will began working for HSLDA in January, 2004 as a legal assistant to Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff. After graduating from Oak Brook College of Law with his J.D., he moved on to direct HSLDA’s Federal Relations department and to serve as HSLDA’s federal lobbyist. As HSLDA’s representative on Capitol Hill, Will uses his passion for homeschooling to advocate for all homeschoolers before Congress and the federal departments. He has testified before Congress and met with senior officials from federal agencies and the executive branch. From October 2007 through December 2012, Will served as the director of Generation Joshua, a division of HSLDA, where he worked with young people who are passionate about making a difference in politics. He oversaw a doubling of Generation Joshua’s membership, an increase in local clubs, and an expansion of Generation Joshua’s reach and effectiveness. In July 2011, he also took on lobbying for ParentalRights.org as the organization’s director of federal relations, where he advocates before Congress for the Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He is a member of the California bar. Will and his wife Rachel, who is also a homeschool graduate as well as an accomplished portrait artist, and their son Dominic reside in northern Virginia.

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