August 7, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: Outcry against Common Core standards unwarranted

 

Obamacore. It’s not about health care. It’s a label applied by reactionary folks who oppose Common Core educational standards because the president supports them. Note the lack of rigor in that analysis.

Though the process of states voluntarily adopting tougher standards in reading and math began in 2009, vocal opposition only recently arose. Fanned by the fevered preachings of broadcaster Glenn Beck and others, a conspiracy theory was hatched that Common Core was really a plot to:

A: Turn all kids into reliable liberals.

B: Collect detailed data on all children for use in future national or international plots.

C: Yank local control from education once and for all.

D: All of the above.

During the spring, campaigns sprouted around the country to stop Common Core. In April, the Republican National Committee officially condemned it with hyperbolic fervor. The timing of this protest couldn’t be worse. Transition work has been underway for a long time. Millions of dollars have been spent. Implementation begins this coming school year.

On Monday night, the Coeur d’Alene School District board approved curricula to align with the state’s Common Core standards, which the state Board of Education adopted in 2010. The Legislature gave final approval in 2011. The curricula were developed by local teachers. Neither the standards nor the curricula require the approval of the federal government.

The board’s 3-2 vote represents a split among conservatives. That alone should put to rest the notion of a liberal plot. It is endorsed by the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many Republican governors, including Idaho Gov. Butch Otter. Forty-five states, including Washington, have adopted the standards.

Contrary to the conspiracy theory, the Common Core idea sprouted in the states when various education experts collaborated on ideas to raise standards to improve global competitiveness. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states measured outcomes against standards, but some states ducked accountability by adopting low standards. It wasn’t until these students reached college and workplaces that it became clear that many were not ready. About 40 percent of Idaho students who attend college need to take remedial courses, often in math or English.

One of the authors of the Common Core math standards, Bradford Findell, associate director of Mathematics Teacher Education Programs at Ohio State University, was recently interviewed by Idaho Education News. He noted, “The standards are the goal. The standards do not dictate how to teach.”

He said the rationale for establishing Common Core was simple: “We weren’t educating all students to the level we need to – there was a huge difference from state to state and also differences from district to district and school to school and classroom to classroom within a school.”

Common Core will need to be assessed. Implementation will be a struggle. And, yes, change can be upsetting. But the standards need to be given a fair chance to succeed before being dismissed.

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