The Common Core: still a state initiative, not a federal one

Well, I suppose it was inevitable. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on backlash against the Common Core standards in its article, “School Standards Pushback.” Apparently some states, including South Carolina, are claiming that the voluntarily-adopted, state-developed, consensus-driven math and reading standards represent an unfair federal intrusion into local and state territory.

Excuse me?

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, these are some of the concerns: Adopting the standards could create a national curriculum that would dictate more controversial subjects like science. The standards won’t work to raise achievement and are weaker than they should be.

Excuse me again, but I fail to see how voluntary standards can somehow morph into a nationally-dictated curriculum. Especially when those standards were created through the states working together.

I also fail to see what stops local school boards, or states, from adopting additional standards that go beyond what is set in the Common Core, if they want to. Isn’t that what the name implies, anyway? A common core, not a common curriculum?

I firmly believe that local control helps produce the best student outcomes. Besides being an example of our democracy, having the community involved in its children’s education is often the best way to develop solutions that work. Local people understand local needs.

But anyone who’s spent as much time as I have looking at the huge variation between schools (for instance, the number of high schools that don’t even offer Algebra II) can’t help but feel that core standards, especially when developed by the states themselves, would be a useful benchmark for local communities to use.  Ignorance of what other schools can, and are, doing with similar students is detrimental to both students and their communities. 

So the use of these arguments both confuses and discourages me. Quite honestly, they simply seem to coincide with the reality of implementing the standards starting to hit. If that’s true, I’d rather these states bring up honest concerns about how to implement the standards well. Poorly-implemented standards will help no one. Hiding behind ignorance and calling it independence, however, won’t help anyone either. — Rebecca St. Andrie

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