After five years of Common Core,
We’ve got trouble right here in River City. . . and Kansas City. . .and Atlantic City and lots of other cities. Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma have repealed Common Core standards altogether, and at least fifteen states are having second thoughts and are in the process of reviewing them. My home state of Missouri is in the process of replacing Common Core standards with their own standards and I think will soon be in the “repealed” column.
Wait! What is Common Core, anyway?
If you have school age children, you no doubt know, but for those who don’t—Common Core is a set of standards specifying what children should know and be able to do at each grade level, K-12. They apply to mathematics and English language arts.
Who wrote them?
A group of governors, chief state school officers and “education experts” from 48 States. The idea started with the National Governors Association in 2007-08, and apparently was originally the brainchild of Janet Napolitano. You remember—former Secretary of Homeland Security—who at the time was the governor of Arizona.
Why did they write them?
The idea was that in order to lead the world in innovation and remain competitive the U.S. needed to have uniform high standards throughout our educational system. If all states would adopt these standards, children would all be more or less on the same page and would benefit from the best in educational theory and practice as determined by the “experts”.
So—what happened after they were written?
The standards were ready by 2010, and it was then up to each individual state to adopt them in lieu of their own standards. Even though the federal government had no hand in writing the standards (it’s illegal for the feds to establish a national curriculum) a seductive incentive to sign on was provided by a $4.3 billion Obama initiative called “Race to the Top.” This grant competition gave states that agreed to adopt the Common Core standards extra points on their applications. Forty-five states and the district of Columbia adopted the standards in 2010 and got the money; four—Texas, Nebraska, Virginia, and Alaska—abstained. Minnesota adopted the English Language Arts standards only.
What’s the Problem?
There has been strong, sometimes vehement opposition to Common Core across the political spectrum. Conservatives object to what they see as federal intrusion into education, which they believe should be left to the States; both liberals and conservatives object to the excessive testing, which is part of the program, and what many see as unnecessarily convoluted teaching materials. Engineer fathers are perplexed by the presentation of complicated solutions to simple math problems and worried mothers say their children are so stressed by the tests that they are throwing up on test day. For many, Common Core is seen as taking all the joy out of learning. An “Opt Out” movement where parents simply keep their children home on test days has gained strength in many places, including New York City.
And now States are finding they can’t afford it!
With “Race to the Top” money now pretty much spent, many states are finding that they just don’t have the resources to invest further in teacher training, acquiring instructional materials. and implementing the technology for the tests, which are administered on the computer. Two groups, The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium were granted a total of $362 million dollars in federal funds to develop tests for Common Core, but the fee for using these tests has proved prohibitive for many school districts.
What’s going to happen now?
We’ll see. A lot of money has been spent, some would say wasted, in an effort to implement these standards nationwide. There is strong political support, Jeb Bush being the most prominent political figure in favor of Common Core. Nevertheless, in my opinion, entropy will prevail and while some of the Common Core ideas may be adopted, state boards of education will eventually resume their legitimate task of setting standards for the children in their state. And I think that would be a good thing. I have specific reservations about Common Core, but I’ll save them for later. This post is already too long.