Education

Where Do We Stand With Common Core?

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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 Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma have repealed Common Core standards altogether, and at least fifteen states are having second thoughts and are in the process of reviewing them.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Missouri is in the process of replacing Common Core standards with their own standards and I think will soon be in the “repealed” column.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.

 

 

10 thoughts on “Where Do We Stand With Common Core?

  1. “NATIONAL BESTSELLER”! Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. !987…so long ago. We still cannot agree to what that war in 1861 was called. We invent, re-invent, get all excited. Then forget. So much time spent on objectives, and standards, and grade inflation. We cannot agree on Basic Skills. Why do we have so much trouble in this country with our educational system. Ah, that “states’ rights” stuff. Thanks for writing about this and sharing with your readers. “To be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world.”–E. D. Hirsch (1987)

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  2. I don’t have to observe these standards in my ESL program, but it seems I never hear anything but complaints from those teachers involved. Sounds like they have to “teach to the test”, which is never a good idea.

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    1. Thank goodness you don’t have to observe them, Linda. You are so right! Creative teachers like yourself are not happy with the rigid requirements of CC. More in my next post about this.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I knew that Common Core was controversial, but I wasn’t aware of the details of the program and the specific concerns.

    My only comment regards your accurate statement that some states don’t have the financial resources to support Common Core. The reason for that is simple. Many governors / State Legislatures prioritize tax cuts over funding of education. We’ve seen that in PA.

    Our previous GOP governor cut back education funding (while refusing to tax companies that mine natural gas from the Marcellus Shale). Sadly, this is what many citizens want. In a society where many people dismiss facts in favor of “beliefs” and look down on those who are educated, we shouldn’t be surprised.

    Our current Democratic governor is trying to restore the education funding but is running into a GOP State legislature that has stonewalled the budget. We’re five months into the new fiscal year with no approved funding. It’s a mess. The executives of some mental health facilities have mortgaged their homes, to have cash flow to pay their employees who provide services to those that need them.

    That said, whether or not this additional educational funding should go towards funding Common Core is a different matter. Thanks again for explaining the issues with this.

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  4. Good discussion of colleges that are in deficit but do keep the athletic programs going financially strong? I’ll never forget the vote wheere I worked in Minnesota: “Cut wrestling or advanced math?” Wrestling won out.

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