We Need a Real Debate About Common Core

By: Dr. Laurence Peters

Few can be puzzled why a group of southern states, most notably Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana are rejecting the Common Core. As Dave Powell writes in Education Week, all three states, “rank close to the bottom of all states on the Education Week Research Center’s 2014 K12 Achievement Index, which takes into account National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, scores? Advanced Placement scores? and high school graduation rates.”

What politicians in these states are clearly afraid of is the distinct probability that they would continue to fall to the bottom of any new national tests such as contemplated by the Common Core and then be faced with public pressure to spend more than they do (certainly as much on a per capita basis as their northern counterparts) to improve. But they are split personalities they want on the one hand the national kudos that comes from being identified as a progressive governor who supports well regarded movements as Common Core (and the federal dollars that accompanied adoption) on the other they want to stay popular with their core supporters, particularly, if like Jindal, they are considering running for national office. So when instead of engaging in reasoned argument they frequently fall back on demagoguery. And so a bellwether Republican Governor wanting out of Common Core talks about federal overreach even as he asks voters to ignore the fact that he took $17 million from Race to the Top funds when he joined the testing consortium known as the PARCC consortium. But somehow something happened after he banked the money to move him to change his mind and to send him into fits of hyperbolic rage as he suddenly realizes that “The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative,” the initiative that was fine a year ago “now becomes the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything.” How come? He does not explain. Meanwhile Louisiana continues to reduce education spending and is now, according to the Center for Budget Priorities among 35 states that have cut funding per student for the 201314school year than before the recession”

We are all worse off when politicians refuse to acknowledge the many factors that go into producing a high quality education system and instead pander to their base. For example, politicians like Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina talks about the need for “finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges” as a reason to reject Common Core. Clearly like Jindal, she feels no embarrassment in waving the states rights flag, but is that all she has to offer? There are some valid reasons to be opposed to common core but mostly these do not poll as well as the states rights issues and so we tend not to hear about them. For example, a number of issues have to do with the poor implementation related to the fact that while hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government have gone into development of a whole generation of sophisticated tests, states are left to scramble for dollars to pay for the enormous professional development costs Common Core adoption entails. We as educators need to encourage our communities to ask more searching questions about the reform initiatives and reject the media enabled punch and judy show that too often substitutes for serious debate.

About JHU School of Ed

SOETalk is an outlet for news, information, commentary and debate on the world of education with a focus on what affects students, prospective students and alumni of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education.
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