Common Core Opponents are Destabilizing Public Education

Yesterday the Indiana State Board of Education adopted a new set of standards to replace the Common Core State Standards adopted earlier by the state.

This was a political move plain and simple. And putting politics first can hurt student achievement and our competitiveness in the world.

These new Indiana standards are not reported to be much different, but I am sure the Board members hope this action will pacify critics of the common core.

Other Governors have been reacting to increasing public criticism, as well. Instead of joining the critics, I wish they would choose to build up public education and its efforts to raise standards nationwide.

As an experienced elementary principal in Louisville recently said, “Politicizing over standards without understanding…is not what kids need.”

Let’s look back at where the Common Core State Standards came from. A few years ago, a bipartisan group of governors and the states’ top education officers came together to develop a set of new, higher standards to make sure students were well prepared for their futures. It was a broad-based effort, with business as a strong supporter.

They were built on the best of the previous standards in the U.S. and the best from top-performing countries. These new goals require students to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for college and the workforce. In addition, the standards help ensure that what students are taught and assessed are more consistent across the nation. States were not forced to adopt them, but in bold moves to make significant progress, 46 states did.

I am proud that Kentucky was the first to adopt the standards, not the first to drop. Instead of tilting toward the critics, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, the KY Board of Education and Commissioner Terry Holliday are standing firm in support of the new and better standards.

Kentucky adopted the higher standards in 2011, and students have been tested on them twice already. Scores went down as expected – they were tougher tests after all – then up. Our PTA and teacher organizations have been out front educating their members and the public on the benefits of the new standards.

Our nation’s polarized politics has gotten in the way of sticking with the higher standards. Critics on the far right proclaim that common core is a “federal takeover” and those more leftward-leaning complain about corporate money that supported their development. Hmmm. Neither of those attacks promise better education.

The one motive that should be driving all of our actions is improving outcomes for all children.

We don’t want to appear shaky on this resolve. However, more elected officials are feeling the heat and may want to abandon the standards. This destabilizes public education.

What a shame it would be to roll back the gains we have made in many areas through implementing the Common Core. Critics will say they are doing this for kids. I don’t buy it. I believe their politics are getting in the way of reason.

Educators, in my experience, are the least politicized individuals in this debate. They just want to know the game plan, and they will use their expertise and creativity to execute the plan.

Earlier this month, I visited a high school in Louisville to attend an assembly celebrating the school’s innovation in technology. While there, I walked into an English classroom. It was meticulously prepared for students. On the wall was a poster outlining the Common Core Standards for English and Language Arts. I wished I could stay for the upcoming lesson on a Shakespeare work.

I pointed to the poster and asked this teacher of advanced students, “What do you think of these standards?” She said, “I love them. It has been hard work and will continue to be. But I still love them.” We talked about the fact that they put a priority on learning correct grammar use, in addition to critical reading and writing skills.

I don’t want to be responsible for taking down that poster and making this long-time teacher change her targets – again. We need to stand up and stick with high quality education.

Let the political winds blow. They will die down, and if you are strong, you will still be standing. And better for it. So will our students.

For more on the Common Core State Standards, read related posts:




About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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