Common Core Adoption Draws Fire from Left and Right

The adoption of Common Core Standards continues to generate controversy as parents increasingly cry out for a meaningful testing program that allows them to track how their children are preparing for college, and state governments are protesting against what they see as an incursion by the federal government into an area that traditionally falls under state and local control.

Common Core still enjoys plenty of support. Although it was not designed by the federal government and instead by a consortium of states, its adoption will make it simpler to compare how students in one state stack up against peers in others. Common Core will also streamline college admissions easier because it will be easier to compare the transcripts of students from various parts of the country.

Reasons for opposing Common Core, however, are broad:

Naturally, this plan has many critics. On the right, some fear the federalization of schools, which are primarily a local or state responsibility. Some worry that Common Core is a distraction from the more important task of promoting school choice. And some object simply because Barack Obama approves. (His administration is providing $360m to two consortia that are developing tests.) Glenn Beck, an incendiary talk-show host, sees an attempt to indoctrinate the young with “extreme leftist ideology”. He provides no evidence that makes sense.

But Common Core has enemies on the Left as well. A state adopting the standards will also bring on an extensive testing regime — something that education advocates on the left have long opposed as counterproductive. Controversy rages even over the kind of texts students will be told to read. Will the drive for “informational” reading material draw focus away from the truly great works of English literature?

It’s hard to compare this broad distrust of Common Core to the attitude that prevailed when the standards were first announced and published. Nearly every state and the District of Columbia announced a commitment to adopt the standards and many are already in the middle of doing so. Yet just this April the Republican National Committee passed a resolution opposing Common Core, and at least two states – Indiana and Pennsylvania – have since announced that they’ll be delaying the adoption indefinitely.

At the time The Economist wrote their story, Michigan was pushing for a delay of at least one year.

Michael Petrilli of the Thomas Fordham Institute, a conservative think-tank, supports the Common Core but says he is surprised that it has taken other conservatives so long to mount this fight. However, he says Common Core is likely to prevail. Even if a few states pull out before national tests in two years, probably far more will stay in than supporters had expected.

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