From the East Coast to the Midwest and beyond a backlash is developing to the Common Core – a new set of national education standards that schools in many states are already in the process of implementing.
Opposition began with Tea Party groups.
But now teachers unions in Ohio say they have their own concerns, mostly about the tests that will accompany the new curriculum.
“People have no idea” what the new Common Core standards mean, says Glenn Newman. He’s the founder of the Marietta 9-12 project, an anti-tax and pro-small-government group, and he says Ohio should back off from the Common Core.Newman is concerned about tracking student data as part of the Common Core, and that students won’t read books like Tom Sawyer anymore and will instead read manuals.
(By the way, as far as we know, the Common Core does encourage schools to give greater emphasis to non-fiction texts in English classes, including manuals, but teachers will still be allowed to teach books like Tom Sawyer too.)
In fact, some on the right, fearing a loss of local control of schools, refer to the new standards as “ObamaCore,” and they want to stop its implementation.
Now some on the left are worried about the Common Core.
Teacher unions don’t want to get rid of it, in fact they say it’s a good idea. But they do want to slow down parts of its implementation.
“Our ask is that there be a moratorium on the high stakes decisions attached to the testing that goes along with Common Core,” says Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper.
Those tests will replace the existing tests starting in 2014-2015, and will be used to assess schools and teachers on their performance. Cropper is worried about decisions tied to those scores – like teacher evaluations and state voucher programs.
“It seems like we’re putting the testing out there before we’ve worked on some authenticity in implementing the Common Core,” she says. Instead, Cropper suggests implementing the tests but just as “field tests” for the first few years.
Other states are moving ahead with hitting the pause button – like our neighbor Indiana.
The Obama Administration, which encouraged states to move towards the Common Core through its Race to the Top competitive grant, is none too happy about the newfound resistance.
Here’s how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan framed the choice: “If any state wants to lower their standards, dummy down their standards they have the right to do that. They can do that tomorrow. I don’t see how that educates children or helps to bring good jobs to a state.”
The Education Committee in the Ohio House will hold hearings later this month on the Common Core, but Republicans who agreed to those hearings indicated it’s mainly to dispel some misinformation about the new curriculum – not to reverse course.
“It’s not going to happen with my assistance, I can tell you that,”says House Education Committee Chair Gerald Stebelton. ”We’ve worked too hard to get to this point, we’re not going to back up.”