The Common Core State Standards for K-12 education, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, are touted by some education-watchers as a states-led effort to improve college and career readiness of high school graduates and raise students’ slipping scores on international tests. Others decry the new standards as an intrusive federal program with a cookie-cutter approach to education.
Now it appears that some states that adopted the standards might never implement them, because of a backlash that’s prompting several states to reconsider their support. It’s a battle that has created strange bedfellows among liberals and conservatives and highlighted rifts within the GOP.
Across the nation
In April, the Republican National Committee declared its opposition to the Common Core on grounds that it is “a one size fits all approach” and “inappropriate overreach.” But many high-profile Republicans remain staunch advocates of the standards, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, according to an April New York Times story.
Though 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted the core, and several states are already implementing them, there are signs of back-pedaling in several states. In Utah, Republicans approved a resolution to withdraw funding for the Common Core at their May 18 convention. A May 14 story in Education Week listed other states facing controversy over the Common Core:
In Alabama, the state Legislature has tried several times to derail the Common Core. A bill to drop the standards cleared the Senate Education Committee but was killed by Senate President Pro Tem Del March, a Republican.
Michigan’s House of Representatives approved a budget that would defund implementation of the Common Core, but Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has reiterated his support.
Ohio has seen groups such as Ohioans Against Common Core and Education Freedom Ohio step up pressure on state lawmakers to drop the standards.
Tennessee, too, has seen local groups hold meetings in opposition to the standards. But Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education, drawn from business and philanthropic communities, has intensified efforts to support the standards.
In Kansas, the tea party-affiliated group FreedomWorks is pressuring the state’s Legislature to cut money for implementing the Common Core. Other states that saw anti-Common Core bills introduced in their legislatures include Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina and South Dakota, a story in the Lawrence Journal-World said. None of the legislation has passed.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill in mid-May that pauses implementation of the Common Core in his state until new public hearings can be held, the Washington Post reported. There will also be a cost analysis done on core implementation. (Costs for implementing education curricula are generally borne by states and districts, sometimes with help from federal grant money. Each state is unique in the ways such costs are managed.)
Battle lines that fracture along unusual lines are being drawn at the national level as well.
The Washington Post reported that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has called for a moratorium on use of new standardized tests for evaluating teachers and students based on Common Core standards, though the teacher union supports the Common Core initiative. Schools should wait until the standards are fully implemented to begin using the new tests, Weingarten said, or risk failure for the Common Core state standards because states haven’t had time to teach students material covered by the tests.
But Chiefs for Change, a group of state education officials organized by Jeb Bush, released a statement saying states should move ahead with plans to use the new tests, the story said.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which aligns with moderate/conservative Republican views on most issues, supports the Common Core as a movement toward higher standards and greater accountability for school systems, Fordham executive vice president Michael Petrilli told the Deseret News.
“We’ve tracked he various state standards since the 1990s,” Petrilli said. “Most states, including Utah, have drafted standards that are terrible — not where content is concerned, but because they are fuzzy, vague and don’t give clarity to educators, parents or test writers about what kids should know and do. The tests that supposedly cover these standards are set at low levels, allowing students to be called proficient even if they are at very low levels of literacy or numeracy.”
But Glenn Beck, host of a conservative radio talk show, says the Common Core is a federal effort to control the nation’s children, the Washington Post reported.
“You as a parent are going to be completely pushed out of the loop,” Beck is quoted as saying on a recent broadcast. “The state is completely pushed out of the loop. They now have control of your children.”
Left-leaning figures on the education scene are divided, too. Beginning with President Barack Obama, the standards have many proponents among liberals interested in bolstering public education. Among those voices are former West Virginia Democratic Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, which seeks to improve college and career readiness, especially for disadvantaged high school students.
“As painful as the Common Core might be, it is a true statement — the most accurate in our nation’s history — about what our students require in order to function in a modern society,” Wise told the Deseret News. “Implementation will be hard, but not to implement is to slide back to a far lesser standard and system that nobody was happy with. We cheat our disadvantaged students if we don’t teach them to these standards.”
However, some experts who consistently take liberal positions on education issues oppose the Common Core. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, a vocal foe of conservative stances favoring school vouchers, charter schools and other education reforms, is one of those. Ravitch wrote in her education blog that she cannot support the Common Core because the standards have been “foisted upon the nation” without adequate field-testing, and because she mistrusts the many large corporations that support the standards.
Another reason Ravitch gave for denying her support to the Common Core standards is that she worries they will cause a precipitous decline in test scores. "This will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing,” Ravitch wrote.
How the battle over Common Core will shake out isn’t known. One thing that's certain is that 45 states will be engaged in implementing the standards when the 2012-13 school year begins. The controversy over Common Core State Standards has also given certain liberals and conservatives a common cause, and to others a common enemy.