Lawmakers in GOP-dominated Indiana, which had adopted the Common Core, changed their minds last week and voted to “pause” the implementation so they can have hearings. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) still has to sign off on that new law.
Bills to repeal the Common Core have been filed in Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Alabama, South Dakota and Georgia. None of the legislation has passed.
And conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck has suggested the Common Core represents a move by the federal government to take control of children. “You as a parent are going to be completely pushed out of the loop,” he said on a recent program. “The state is completely pushed out of the loop. They now have control of your children.”
Chad Colby, a spokesman for a consortium of 22 states developing Common Core assessments, dismissed the opposition as a small group of fringe activists.
“If you look at what’s actually going on, when teachers and business leaders stand up in states, they have won the argument,” Colby said. “The far right, this very small, vocal minority, is not winning these battles.”
Curriculum and academic standards traditionally have been determined by states and local communities. That has produced uneven results, with states using a variety of standards. That became clear as students who aced state tests performed poorly on the federally administered test known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Sporadic efforts to create consistent national standards have come and gone.
Several years ago, the National Governors Association began pushing a bipartisan idea of common standards in English and math. The Gates Foundation invested tens of millions of dollars in the effort to write them. And the initiative gained speed when the Obama administration required states to adopt the common standards — or an equivalent — to compete for Race to the Top grant funds or to receive a waiver from the requirements of No Child Left Behind.
By 2012, 45 states and the District had signed onto the math and English standards. Minnesota has adopted only the English standards; Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have not adopted either.
The standards are designed to ensure that, for the first time, third-graders in Maine will acquire the same knowledge and skills as their peers in Hawaii. Once states begin testing against the new standards, it will be possible for the first time to compare test scores across communities and states.
For many states, the new standards will be tougher. When Kentucky became the first state to administer tests based on the new standards last year, the percentage of students in middle and elementary school deemed “proficient” or better in math and reading dropped by about one-third.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan declined to take a position on the proposed moratorium but said it speaks to concerns he has heard from educators. “I talk to a lot of teachers,” he said in a statement. “They agree with raising the bar to prepare students for college and career, but some are pretty stressed about the pace and sequence of change.”
Teachers are not opposed to more demanding standards or tests, Weingarten said.
“We have one of two paths,” she said. “We can revolutionize K-12 education to enable kids to be ready for college and career, or these standards can be chopped up with so many well-meaning reforms and end up in the dust bin. . . . We’ve been through this path before about higher standards. Let’s get it right this time.”