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Let Teachers Lead the Common Core

It's time to trust teachers to do what's right for their students.
 
 
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Now that ed-heads have had a chance to make their “what to expect in 2014″ prognostications, it’s evident that one of the most tumultuous issues – perhaps the most tumultuous – for the year ahead is the fate of the Common Core State Standards.

The Common Core – academic standards in math and English language arts the U.S. Department of Education coerced most states to adopt and use for measuring public education performance goals – has been marketed to the American people as “the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education,” according to the initiative’s website.

Most states (45) eagerly took that “first step,” but it’s the second, third, and fourth steps that are proving problematic.

Common Core Is A “Flashpoint”

Writing for the education trade publication Education Week, Andrew Ujifusa declared the Common Core to be a “flashpoint” in the year ahead. In an election year, the new standards, and their associated tests, confront “a tricky political climate.”

In 2013, a “ total of 270 unique bills in all states dealt with academic-content standards in some way,” compared to just 117 in 2012. In great part, the results of those bills tied all sorts of education policies – from curriculum and instruction, to teacher evaluations and school ratings, to student assessments and the sharing of their personal records – to the Common Core.

The consequences of these sweeping changes to state education policies, spurred by adoption of the new standards, are gradually coming due, and team Common Core is looking shaky.

Opposition Coming From Right And Left

Last week influential conservative columnist George Will wrote in the editorial pages of The Washington Post, “The Obama administration has purchased states’ obedience by partially conditioning waivers from onerous federal regulations (from No Child Left Behind) and receipt of federal largess ($4.35 billion in Race to the Top money from the 2009 stimulus) on the states’ embrace of the Common Core. Although 45 states and the District of Columbia have struck this bargain, most with little debate, some are reconsidering and more will do so as opposition mounts.”

Opposition is, indeed, mounting.

State leaders in Indiana – a state that has been touted by Common Core proponents as an “Education Reform Idol” – seems poised to drop the standards, according to Education Week’s Michele McNeil. Lawmakers in Kentucky – the first state to adopt the Common Core – filed a bill to repeal the standards. Recently, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley came out against the standards her state adopted saying, “We don’t ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children.”

When state lawmakers aren’t calling for outright repeal of the standards, they are expressing serious misgivings with all the trappings the Common Core entails, including new teacher evaluations and the Common Core tests developed by two assessment consortia facilitated by the federal government.

According to the education blog for the New America Foundation, “ Several states have already pulled out, or scaled back, their involvement” with the two consortia that developed those tests. “Expect more to follow this year,” concluded NAF’s expert.

New York, one of the first states to roll out those new standards-aligned tests, has been the scene of such vocal and widespread dissent related to those tests, that Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced plans for “corrective action” on the Common Core rollout.

What happened?

Everything You Need To Know

To answer that question, education historian Diane Ravitch recently delivered a seminal speech to the Modern Language Association to explain, “Everything you need to know about Common Core.”