Common Core Pendulum

Prior to the Common Core, there existed a mish-mash of educational standards that varied widely from state to state. Consequently, 20-50% of students entering college are not prepared and need remedial courses in English or math.

In 2009, the National Governors Association requested that academic specialists develop a new approach, which became the Common Core State Standards. The focus of the Core is on critical thinking skills like analyzing information and reasoning, which theoretically better prepares students for college and career. In 2010, the District of Columbia and 46 states adopted the Common Core State Standards.

Originally the Common Core had wide bipartisan support, a rare example of Democratic and Republican cooperation. Oh how things have changed. Common Core has become a key issue in the midterm campaigns. South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Indiana have dropped the standards, decreasing the number of support states to 43.

The past year has seen a backlash to the new standards from both left and right. The left sees the Core as increasing the rigid standardized-testing culture and argues that teachers will become scapegoats. Tea partiers see the Core as Big Government’s attempt to take control over local schools, with many referring to it as “ObamaCore.”

A central concern of teachers is that fictional literature from Shakespeare and others will be dropped because the Core requires that 50%-70% of reading assignments be from nonfiction texts. The Core’s “fuzzy math” is mystifying parents and students.  “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and Common Core!” comedian Louis C.K. recently complained in a tweet.

The Common Core is no longer seen as a nonpartisan solution that provides a way to compare students across states. What happens with Common Core in the next few years is not clear. Some educators are advocating a moratorium on using Common Core assessments until the criticism, politics, and polemics die down. One thing is clear; decision-makers must take seriously the concerns of students, parents, and teachers.

“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”         – David Foster Wallace




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