The Common Core debate

When a task force recommended a set of standards in 2009 that came to be known as the Common Core, it did so in the belief it was time to replace the hodgepodge of standards in place in the 50 states.  Little did the members know how controversial the standards would become (“ ‘Common Core’ Review: Standards Put to the Test,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 12).

I understand the frustration and anger that many people feel about the Common Core.  But I think there’s another side of the story that needs telling.  Although the U.S. has a long history of local control of education, the existence of national standards does not mean abolishing this tradition.  Despite rumors, nothing prohibits developing and implementing locally developed standards.

The fixation on local control forgets that in a mobile society those students who move from one state to another are shortchanged. Prior to the Common Core, high school diplomas could- and did – mean very different things from state to state and district to district.  I don’t think we can afford that in the global economy. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress make it painfully clear the price we pay for failing to change.

I’m not saying that national standards are a panacea for the ills afflicting public education in this country.  But I submit that they are indispensable.  It’s how the standards are used that should be our concern.  If they are used strictly for diagnostic purposes, they provide invaluable feedback to all stakeholders.  Unfortunately, they’re used for punitive purposes.  Quite naturally, they are resented and resisted.  Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, however, I think it’s time to use the Common Core more fairly.

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2 Replies to “The Common Core debate”

  1. I agree with you that having national standards is essential and does not conflict with local control. I consider that situation a win-win.
    Last week I read my first grade granddaughter’s teacher report for the first half of the year. She attends a public charter. Leaving aside what it said about her, the thing I found myself focusing on was how much work went into the preparation of that report, times 22, for the other kids in class.
    I was a high school English teacher and I know how much a new program, whatever its focus, can pile work on teachers. Is such exhaustive record keeping really necessary? I got what the teacher was saying in a few sentences.
    The focus for any program should be on helping kids get the best education they can, not on pushing teachers to the limit and expecting them to smilingly give up any free time they have in the service of record keeping.
    It’s no wonder good potential teachers are choosing other careers.


  2. DK Hatton: National standards can actually make the job of teachers easier because students who transfer in will more likely be on the same page as other students. As things stand now, so much time has to be taken to bring new students up to speed.


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