NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Standards Pushback

May 14, 2012

The Common Core national math and reading standards, adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia two years ago, are coming under attack from some quarters as a federal intrusion into state education matters.  The claim that the participating states' adoption of the curriculum was voluntary is misleading, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • They were heavily promoted by the Obama administration through its $4.35 billion Race to the Top education grant competition.
  • States that instituted changes such as common learning goals received bonus points in their applications.
  • Specifically, states were encouraged to adapt curricula to standardized forms that were consistent with other states, and given that the Common Core was the only set of standards that fit this criterion, it is unsurprising that states rushed to sign on.

For lawmakers at the state level (many of whom serve in states that have already adopted the standards), one of the primary concerns is that the move represents an unprecedented federal takeover of state-provided education.  Coercing states into prescribed curriculum, they argue, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Practical and empirical arguments against the Common Core have also been put forth.

  • The new standards will by no means be an easy change for educators to swallow: they are more stringent than those currently in use in 39 states in math and 37 states in English.
  • There are also substantial price tags associated with states coming into line with the new standards as new textbooks are purchased and teachers undergo new rounds of training.
  • Finally, federal mandates are not amenable to the special interests of states -- this is of particular concern in the more controversial areas of education such as history and science.

Finally, there is an important question regarding the effectiveness of these new, expensive rules.  A study released this year by a researcher at the Brookings Institution think tank projected Common Core will have no effect on student achievement.  It went on to argue that low standard and high standard states have made similar gains in recent years.

Source: Stephanie Banchero, "School-Standards Pushback," Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2012.

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