As Implementation Nears, Common Core Controversy Heats Up

While Common Core has been accepted in nearly all states, there are a few critics that are pushing back against the uniform math, reading, and writing curriculum standards. The new standards are said to better prepare students for higher education and the workplace, but some states worry that a national curriculum will stifle local school autonomy to have input on what is best for their students, reports Associated Press Writers via the Washington Post.

The Common Core Standards have also divided the Republican party, with conservatives such as Senator Chuck Grassley opposing them, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in strong support.

Historically, conservatives have supported higher standards, according to Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Bush-Backed Foundation for Excellence in Education.

“The fact that they are opposed to Common Core now is a little surprising and disappointing given the fact that states came together to solve a need,” Campbell said, adding that the new standards will allow for state-by-state comparisons that haven’t been possible before. “We are going to have more rigorous assessments that are going to test kids against those higher standards and hopefully achieve what we all want, which is a dramatically greater quality of education in America.”

In April the Republican National Committee passed a resolution that called the standards an “inappropriate overreach.” The same month, eight senators signed a letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to stop the Education Department from linking the adoption of the standards to eligibility for other federal dollars.

Meanwhile the standards are being reviewed by lawmakers and governors in Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah.

The standards are set to make the curriculum in three-quarters of the states more rigorous, which has critics questioning what will happen in the states whose previous standards were tougher. States are welcome to create tougher benchmarks than Common Core, as it is supposed to only serve as a base for states to build their curriculum and testing on.

The opposition is gaining traction because the states and districts are now at the point where money has to be appropriated to pay for the standards’ implementation. Think tanks critical of Common Core estimate the cost will be $16 billion over seven years, while pro-Common Core think tanks only estimate the cost to be $8.3 billion — or even allow states to break even or save money.

One of the largest costs that the pro-Common Core cost estimate did not include is the cost of the technology required for the Common Core testing. The tests will be conducted online, and many schools lack the modern technology and bandwidth that would be necessary — a significant immediate expenditure that has states and schools worried.

Carrie Heath Phillips, who oversees implementation of the standards for the council, asks that if schools aren’t willing to move into the 21st century now, then when will they?

Despite the controversy, Common Core has supporters and teachers who have implemented the standards in their classrooms and have seen substantial improvements in their students work.

“Unfortunately, it’s been too much about politics,” he said. “It’s being viewed as the federal government putting another federal mandate on us. … It was the governors of the states getting together … to say we want a partner at the national level and all levels to say, ‘Let’s raise the bar.’”