Controversy Over Common Core Shows No Signs of Abating

Considering how controversial the Common Core Standards have become, it’s a little difficult to believe that soon after their initial publication, 45 states and the District of Columbia quickly announced their intention to adopt them. However, since then, the standards have become somewhat of a political hot potato, with some issue or another threatening to undermine their adoption states arising practically every week.

According to Adrienne Lu writing for Pew’s Stateline blog, just last week a second debate on Common Core adoption was held in Michigan, while in Georgia, education officials learned that they might lose as much as $10 million in federal funds due to pushing off the implementation of a teacher assessment system that would link test results to performance and pay.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Ohio have introduced a measure that would allow the state to drop the standards altogether even though it has already committed to adopting them.

The coming year could prove to be a real test for the new standards, with school curriculum based on the standards set to go into effect in 20 states. This means the race is on there to make sure that teachers are prepared to teach the more rigorous concepts mandated by Common Core.

“There’s an intense sense of urgency right now to prepare students and teachers to get ready for 2014-15, but I do think it’s a long-haul effort,” said Margaret Millar of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which worked with the National Governors Association to create the Common Core. Millar predicted that even a decade from now, teachers will be incorporating the Common Core into their classroom teaching.
Some states are playing a central role in preparing teachers for the new standards, while others are letting school districts take the lead.

In a survey for the American Federation of Teachers, conducted in late March, 44 percent of teachers said their districts were just “somewhat prepared” or “not prepared” to implement the standards. About three-quarters of those surveyed said their district had not given them enough time to understand the standards and put them into practice. A majority also said their districts had not given them enough model lesson plans, or aligned textbooks and other materials with the standards.

According to Michelle Exstrom, a program principal at the National Conference of State Legislatures, not all the states are on the same page. Some seem fully committed to getting their teachers and administrators ready, while others are taking a more wait-and-see approach.

The differences are not all on the state level – districts are varying in steps they take to prepare too.

Mark Dwyer, a ninth grade algebra teacher at Chatham High School in New York, said his district has provided teachers with many opportunities to prepare for the transition, including multiple staff development days and time off from their regular duties to prepare new tests. The district has also purchased new textbooks aligned to the Common Core for kindergarten through 12th grades.

“I’m in a district where we’ve gotten great support and I think we’re as ready as we can be,” Dwyer said. But he said his wife, who teaches in a school district just a few miles away, has received almost no support for the transition, in part because her district has fewer resources.