EdMedia Commons Archive

Common Core Under Fire: How Strong Is Support for New State Standards?

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Common Core State Standards, with critics mounting a flurry of attacks and proponents working hard to shore up support.

The front page of the Washington Post today describes the surprisingly successful efforts by Tea Party groups to get Republican governors to rethink their support for the common core.  As the Post reports, legislation has been introduced in at least nine states to “temporarily block the standards,” and two states have gone so far as to put a moratorium on implementation. (Georgia isn’t one of the nine states but lawmakers are keeping a wary eye on developments elsewhere, the Statesboro Herald reports.)

Confusion over what the common core is – and is not – persists. Here’s just one example: At EWA’s 66th National Seminar, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told reporters that the governor of a state signed on to the common core initiative mistakenly believed it was a prescribed curriculum that schools would be expected to follow.

But is common core a misstep toward federalizing public schools, as writers for the free-market Pioneer Institute alleged in an op-ed this week for the Wall Street Journal? Or is it really the blueprint for turning around the nation’s underperforming schools and ensuring students graduate college and career ready, as struggling districts like the District of Columbia Public Schools is betting?

The Christian Science Monitor has a solid overview of what’s next for implementation in the 46 states that have signed on to the common core. From education reporter Amanda Paulson’s story:

Depending on whom you talk to, it’s the most promising education reform in decades – an opportunity for teachers to delve more deeply into material and focus on critical-thinking skills and comprehension. Or, it’s yet another reform that’s being pushed through too quickly, paired with too many high-stakes consequences, and it will further drive teachers from the classroom and discourage kids.

Here’s AFT President Randi Weingarten’s take for the Huffington Post, in which she warns that hasty implementation could derail the entire effort:

“Common Core standards will either transform the very DNA of teaching and learning, or they will end up in the dustbin of abandoned reforms. Unfortunately, many policymakers are proceeding recklessly, in ways that make the second outcome more likely.”

And in the nation’s largest school district, a coalition of New York City principals are refusing to use a statewide assessment to make admission decisions, in response to serious concerns about the newest version intended to align to the common core expectations for students.

Nearly as fast and furious as the criticism are rebuttals. In one example: Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank supportive of the common core, takes apart the Pioneer Institute’s op-ed point by point. (Fordham Institute’s Andy Smarick has also been compiling common core assessment takeaways.)

Check out State Impact Indiana’s answer to a reader’s question of who supports the common core and who opposes it, along with analysis of how that support at the national level has changed in the past year (short answer: not much). While much of the focus has been on common core’s potential impact on students and schools in general, The Hechinger Report has an interesting take on how schools serving Native American students in Arizona are adjusting to the new expectations.

Also at the state level, Michigan lawmakers are being warned by no less than Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee not to abandon the common core. Here’s what Rhee, former chancellor of D. C. public schools and founder of the StudentsFirst advocacy group, told Michigan legislators at the Mackinac Policy Conference:

“I’ve heard some recent rumblings from folks who say we don’t like it when the federal government is telling us what to do. We don’t like that. You know what you should not like? The fact that China is kicking our butts right now,” Rhee told attendees. “Get over feeling bad about the federal government and feel bad that our kids are not competing.”

The editorial board of the Grand Rapids Press urged the state not to give up on common core, and for Republican lawmakers to stop blocking the funding for it. Common core’s opponents “need to show how undoing three years of work preparing for the new standards will help Michigan students become college and career ready,” according to the editorial penned by Dave Murray, community engagement specialist for the Grand Rapids Press. “So far, they have not.” (The New York Times also has an editorial urging states to proceed - albeit with caution — with the common core.)

For more on the Common Core State Standards, EWA’s Story Starters resource has the latest coverage, research, and background to help you with your reporting.

Photo Credit: Flickr (user asterix611/Creative Commons)

This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.