The Common Core: Mired in Politics

Opposition to the Common Core, a set of reading and math standards for elementary, middle and high school students that were originally adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, has gathered momentum among state lawmakers in recent weeks.

The governors of Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering signing bills to repeal the standards and replace them with locally written versions. In Missouri, lawmakers passed a bill that would require a committee of state educators to come up with new standards within the next two years. Indiana is the only state to have enacted a law repealing the Common Core so far.

Although the Common Core, developed by a coalition convened by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, was initially backed by a group of Republican governors, the Obama administration also lent its support. For the past year, conservative Republicans, seizing on the administration’s backing, have argued that the standards amount to a federal takeover of public schools.

Jason Nelson, a Republican state representative from northwest Oklahoma who sponsored the bill to withdraw the state from the Common Core, said he and his colleagues wanted to “break any kind of nexus where any private organization or the federal government would exert control over our standards.” The bill passed the Oklahoma House overwhelmingly last week, and this week it passed the Senate, 31 to 10.

The pushback from the right has been fueled by an unlikely alliance with critics on the left, who are upset by new standardized tests and the high stakes associated with them, including teacher performance reviews..

The American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers union,  executive council recently passed a resolution supporting “the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards.”

A spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina told The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C., that the governor, a Republican, would fight the Common Core “until it’s no longer part of our school system’s curriculum.”

The standards leave decisions about curriculum, textbooks, technology and other materials to local districts.

Many states and districts have already developed lessons and trained teachers in new methods built around the Common Core, in some cases spending millions of dollars. Missouri’s bill would allow teachers to continue using any recently adopted curriculums while a committee of educators, parents and business leaders develops new standards to be put into effect in two years.

The Common Core was established, in part, to create a NATIONAL standard and eliminate individual state standards.  If students move from one state to another, the leaving state may have a higher or lower standard than the receiving state, causing students to be placed at-risk.  This latest furor also creates problems for teachers who have been preparing to teach to the new standards.  States and local districts have spent large sums buying texts and adopting new curriculum to meet the Common Core Standards.  While I have many reservations about the standards which I do not feel give schools and teachers a say in what should be taught.  If we look at the high performing countries like Finland, Singapore, and South Korea they have national standards, not local standards.