Is the Common Core Standards initiative in trouble?

Apr 24, 2013 by

valerie-strauss-130x130Valerie Strauss – Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently met with Chamber of Commerce leaders and urged them to be more vocal and forceful in defending the Common Core State Standards. Why?

Duncan made the appeal, which was reported by Education Week, because the initiative — a set of common standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia designed to raise student achievement — has come under such withering attack in recent months that what once seemed like a major policy success for the Obama administration now looks troubled.

A handful of states (including Indiana, Alabama, South Dakota and Georgia) are either pulling back or considering it, and core supporters fear more states will too.  A growing number of educators are complaining that states have done a poor job implementing the standards and are pushing core-aligned tests on students too early. And parents have started a campaign to “opt” their children out of the Common Core-aligned high-stakes standardized tests.

Both Republicans and Democrats have supported the initiative in the past, including the Obama administration and Republican Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, both of whom were big players in the campaign to get some 45 states and the District of Columbia to approve the standards.

It is now both Republicans and Democrats who are questioning the Core, though the Republican voice is louder and more official: The Republican National Committee just passed an anti-Common Core resolution, saying that the initiative is a federal intrusion on states’ rights, and Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa just started a bid to to eliminate federal funding for the core effort.

Many Democratic critics say that while they don’t oppose the idea of national standards, the Common Core is not based on research and that parts of it ignore what is known about how students learn, especially in the area of early childhood education. They also say that despite promises to the contrary, the core-aligned standardized tests won’t be dramatically better in assessing student achievement than the older tests. Some former core supporters, such as award-winning New York Principal Carol Burris, changed their minds after learning more about the standards and the core-aligned tests. (You can read some of her critiques here and here).

Supporters of the core — which include educators who are implementing the standards — are somewhat incredulous at the opposition, saying that  the old system of each state having its own set of standards proved to be untenable because student achievement was uneven across the country. (This line of thinking presumes that standards themselves are real drivers of quality.)

Reflecting the growing schism over the Common Core are two different recent editorials in major newspapers: The Los Angeles Time editorial board urged city officials to delay its implementation to make sure that it is done properly, while the New York Times editorial board told parents not to be afraid of the new Common Core-aligned standardized tests and it blamed Republicans for the opposition.

The L.A. Times editorial said in part:

Is the Common Core Standards initiative in trouble?.

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