The Future of Common Core
With 42 states, the District of Columbia and four territories adopting the Common Core standards in 2010, it seemed as if the national plan to align educational standards across states was off to a good start. Yet, in the years since this early adoption, things haven’t gone as smoothly as planned and the future of common core remains in the balance.
The Creation of Common Core
Common Core was originally created by two organizations: The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. Together with input from parents, teachers and education experts they developed the standards and guidelines of Common Core, a voluntary nationwide program, which the creators and those involved hoped would be widely adopted across all states. Those hoping for wide adoption included the Federal government, who saw Common Core as perfectly aligned with their Race to the Top educational initiative, an initiative emphasizing college-and career-ready standards for all students.
Common Core and Race to the Top
Critics, however, believe the Federal government has overextended its reach and involvement in persuading States to adopt Common Core by tying Common Core to grant eligibility funding for the Race to the Top initiative. According to Common Core Issues,
“In March 2009, the Department of Education revealed its backdoor method of gaining federal control of state educational policy when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Race to the Top (RTTT) program—an opportunity for states to compete for a share of $4.35 billion reserved for state education incentives by the American Recovery and Restoration Act. To even be eligible for funding, states had to promise that they would fully adopt a set of common college- and career-ready standards supplemented with only 15% of their own standards.”
In an effort to rebuff critics, the Common Core website states,
“Recognizing the strength of having high standards for all students, the federal government gave competitive advantage to Race to the Top applicants that demonstrated that they had or planned to adopt college- and career-ready standards for all students. The program did not specify the Common Core or prevent states from creating their own, separate college- and career-ready standards.”
While there are those on both sides of the argument, the fact stands that states who adopted the Common Core standards received “a competitive advantage” when it came to receiving federally earmarked education funds. Now as states begin to drop out of Common Core and as the first year of test results trickle in showing that not all states met the 95% required participation [of students] rate, there are many questions over whether or not states will begin to lose Federal funds.
Losing State Participation
Two federally-funded Common Core testing consortia — The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium — were chosen to develop student assessments aligned with the Common Core standards and based on input from local educators and states. When states enrolled in Common Core they were able to choose between these two assessment consortia.
These tests were intended to support the main mission of Common Core: to set and measure consistent learning goals across states. With students across the country taking one of two Common Core assessments, it would become possible to compare states based on the same benchmark, ensuring that every student was prepared for college or career after graduation. But as time goes by, more and more states are dropping their memberships in the two main testing consortia, eroding the main mission of Common Core. Political backlash, implementation issues and criticism over the curriculum have caused states to rethink their involvement in Common Core.
An opt-out movement among students and parents is also gaining steam across all 50 states, threatening many states’ 95% participation requirement. The reasons are varied,
“Lawmakers in some states have suggested the Common Core undermines local control of education. Parents and teachers have raised questions about whether students are ready for a new wave of standardized tests, after precipitous drops in test scores in New York and Kentucky, the first two states to adopt Common Core exams. Others have argued the new benchmarks are onerous and elitist. Some took issue with the idea that all children should be placed on a path to college, and they worried about the disappearance of vocational education,” said an article in the New York Times.
As a result, in New York this year, over 200,000 students refused to take the Common Core assessment. Further hampering the Common Core, were technical glitches that occurred this year in 3 states – Nevada, Montana and North Dakota.
Proponents and Politics of Common Core
As the Common Core becomes more and more politicized, it is fair to wonder weather the educational initiative has morphed into a type of political football, mired by a host of myths in a battle between the right and left. Many proponents of Common Core believe this to be the case, arguing that the politics surrounding it have eroded support and clouded the public’s ability to evaluate it in an objective way.
In an interview with PBS Bill Gates, a strong proponent and funder of Common Core, said,
“When you survey teachers across the nation whose states have Common Core in place, they say, we like it. It’s hard to implement, but we know it’s the right thing for our students. Our students are learning the things that they need to learn.
So, they believe in it. And so, in some ways, the political discourse just isn’t, thank goodness, trickling down to the reality of what’s happening in schools.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, also a supporter of Common Core said in a Think Progress article,
“When you study the issue, you separate the hysteria from the reality … We have carried it out. We have higher standards. We want our kids to perform better and do better … The standards are determined by our local school boards. There is total local control.”
And an article in The Atlantic praised the “unsung benefit” of common core; teaching and preparing students for civic engagement.
“Conservatives worry about the overreach of federal incentives, while unions don’t want the standards connected to teacher evaluations. What is being lost? The standards’ significant emphasis on reinvigorating the democratic purpose of public education. Making good on this promise presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine and reprioritize the special role that schools play in preparing students for active civic participation,” said The Atlantic.
So despite the critics, Common Core has a host of supporters, who insist its benefits are too great to ignore. Yet, for all its intended benefits, better preparing students for their futures, emphasizing critical thinking, teaching contextual learning and attempting to create a common benchmark for learning across states, the Common Core has attracted plenty criticism, be it accurate or not. For now, the reasons for and against the Common Core will continue to be debated, with opponents and proponents strongly voicing their opinions on this hotly contested and increasingly political issue.
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