Two years ago 46 states and the District of Columbia adopted the Common Core national math and reading standards, but the debate over whether they’re appropriate rambles on.
The academic standards have been heavily promoted by the current Obama administration and are widely perceived as a prerequisite for successful application to its Race to the Top education grant program. While not a strict precondition, states adopting the voluntary common standards do receive bonus points in their application.
Conservative opponents of the standards claim that they represent an unjustifiable federal intrusion into education matters that should the sole domain of the States concerned.
“The Common Core takes education out of the hands of South Carolina and parents, so we have no control over what happens in the classroom,” said Michael Fair, a Republican state senator who plans to introduce a measure that would bar his state from spending money on activities related to the standards, such as training teachers and purchasing textbooks.
It’s not a clear partisan divide however as some on the left are against the measures because of the extra work burden they place on already undervalued teachers, while some on the right, such as the right-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, accept that the Common Core standards are of themselves widely superior to the standards currently in use in the majority of states.
One supporter of the measures on the ground is teacher Jahn Owens who, despite acknowledging the concerns of some of her union peers other the extra work caused by their implantation is happy that her students are benefiting:
“These standards take students much deeper into the subjects and force them to do more critical thinking,” Ms. Owens said. “It’s been hard work for the teachers because the implementation was so quick, but we are now more purposeful about student learning.”
There is also a group who believe the implantation is a waste of time as the common standards will have no effect. A researcher from the Brooking Institution think tank released a study this year that showed there was no correlation between quality of standards and improvement of national math and reading scores; states with high and low standard showed the same rate of improvement from 2003-09.
Common Core standards are a result of a push from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to describe the skills that all students should possess as a result of a world class education. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the high profile funders and the standards set specific detailed goals so progress can be accurately and quantifiably compared in different districts.