Duncan Touts Common Core, But Left and Right Still Skeptical

Since its roll out in 2010, Common Core has faced mounting opposition that is now coming from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“There’s been a convergence on the left and right on Common Core,” says Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University. “A lot of the right-wing opposition is about Obama. … On the left, it’s about standardized testing and how high-stakes tests are going to be used to hold schools accountable.”

Prior to the development of the Common Core standards, the US had no set national standards outlining what children should know in each grade level through high school graduation.  Many states simply held low expectations, and then produced students unprepared for higher education.  Common Core sets to fix this issue by ensuring students across the nation were learning the same material in each grade.

However, the implementation of these standards has been less than perfect.  The 27-members committee who wrote the standards actually had more representatives from the testing industry than teachers.  This committee has since dispersed and left no rules for amending the standards.

Some states have taken it upon themselves to amend the standards.  In New York, teachers were not given any training on the topic.  After students took the test, teachers were given a printout of scores that did not offer an inside look at which topics students needed help with.

Opponents to the standards have come from both political sides.

In general, Democrats are concerned with over-testing students.

“Our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools,” said education advocate Diane Ravitch in a speech to the Modern Language Association earlier this year.

Republicans who oppose the standards tend to cite Common Core as nationalizing education, while there is a wide-spread belief that education should be under local control.

Late this summer, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who previously supported the standards, changed his mind and sued the Obama administration, arguing that the federal government was infringing on local control of the education system.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stood in support of the standards, saying:

“I do think, again, having high standards is really important. And where historically, standards were dummied down, where children’s families were told that, ‘Yes, they were on track to be successful in college,’ and they weren’t even close, for me that’s absolutely devastating. It’s absolutely insidious.”

And recently, at a POLITICO event, Bill Gates openly discussed his support of the standards.  Gates used the example of unnamed Asian countries, where students learn less but are offered more in-depth information.  “And what are the results? Well, they spend far, far less money and get far, far better results,” Gates said.