The Debate Over the Common Core State Standards

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The Regulatory Review features seven new essays over two-weeks on the Common Core.

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As the new year gets underway, members of Congress are renewing their efforts to reauthorize the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, while governors and legislators continue to debate educational reforms at the state level. Central to all of these debates over educational policy today are the highly controversial Common Core State Standards.  To illuminate the public debate over the Common Core, The Regulatory Review is pleased to publish this two-week series on the fiercely contested standards.

Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the Common Core Standards, making them the educational standards toward which the majority of current American students are taught.

Since its inception, the Standards have been hotly contested. Although some states, such as Texas, have adopted other assessment standards, most states have adopted the Common Core. A majority of these states adopted the Standards after the Obama Administration’s 2009 announcement of its Race to the Top grants, which required competing states to adopt “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace” and included bonus funding for those states adopting the Common Core. Since then, several states, including Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, have repealed or replaced the Standards after initial adoption.

While supporters have heralded the uniformity of the Standards and their ability to prepare students for college and careers, opponents have attacked the same standards as failing to meet the needs of individual students and as a byproduct of federal overreach. All agree that students and the quality of instruction should be the focus of education policy and of any educational standards, but commentators vary widely on what approach is best.

In this series, we feature seven insightful but varied essays on the Common Core State Standards. The authors present virtually every side of the debate. They comprise those who support the Standards; those who support them but oppose their implementation or the testing that accompanies them; and those who oppose the Standards altogether as intrusive federal overreach or as simply being anathema to student and teacher success. The essays present alternating perspectives and along the way cast important light on the core issues involved in this most recent effort to regulate teaching and learning in America.

Common Core Creates Professional Possibilities

January 12, 2015  |  Maddie Fennell

We became teachers to create a better future for our students. The Common Core State Standards are one of the best tools we can use to achieve that goal and hold tremendous potential for the education profession.

The Common Core is a Remedy Worse than the Disease

January 13, 2015  |  Anthony Cody

The Common Core standards are a clear case of federal overreach, facilitated by corporate philanthropies acting to circumvent democratic process. The standards are themselves deeply flawed as a result, and they are embedded in an accountability system that is causing grave harm to students.

Stay the Course, or Turn the Page?

January 14, 2015  |  Michael J. Petrilli

The dual nature of Common Core as an educational and political issue is important to keep in mind over the coming months as state lawmakers debate whether to “stay the course” or “turn the page,” five years after they first adopted the standards.

The Common Core is Passable in Theory but Problematic in Reality

January 15, 2015  |  Frederick Hess

The benefits of common standards depend mightily on the “how” of implementation. Unfortunately the push on behalf of the Common Core has undermined the venture’s promise in profound and debilitating ways.

Common Misperceptions

January 19, 2015  |  Annice Brave

Naysayers are often unaware of what goes on in Common Core classrooms. It is the way I have taught for years, because it makes sense – common sense – and it is the established best practice that I have learned from attending trainings on how to teach advanced coursework.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Common Core

January 20, 2015  |  Josh Stumpenhorst

States across the country are beginning to implement the Common Core State Standards. Their success varies. Within that variance lie “the good, the bad, and the ugly” realities of the Common Core – and regrettably students get caught in the crossfire.

Testing is Destroying the Common Core

January 21, 2015  |  Anna Baldwin

The CCSS have become conflated with the testing cycle. But testing and test-preparation wear down students mentally and emotionally, and they cause a significant loss of instructional time. The students taking the test are taught nothing, and because the teacher must proctor the test the students in the teacher’s other classes do not advance while they have a substitute.