Common Core? Conservative and Teacher Opposition is Growing

What is Common Core?

Local Control vs. Federal Control

The battle against Common Core started simply enough: Conservatives believe in federalism, with a strong state and local government that has a greater say as to how communities are run. This encompasses education, with conservatives believing that students are best educated by those who understand their needs.

Under a system of federalism, the federal government remains decentralized and focuses on handling limited constitutional duties. Needless to say, we are far from that form of government. The federal government tries to force states’ hands in issues ranging from the major (Obamacare) to the silly silly (Michelle’s school lunches.) The federal government’s desire to control education has long been a dream of statists, and they might have pulled it off with the Common Core Educational Standards.

 To be fair, below is the summary of what Common Core is according to the creators of the program:

State education chiefs and governors in 48 states came together to develop the Common Core, a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Today, 43 states have voluntarily adopted and are working to implement the standards, which are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.


The “Carrot and Stick” Maneuver

Supporters of Common Core, voiced largely by Jeb Bush, argue that the standards are not a federal program because there are no laws forcing states to join. So since states can voluntarily join or not join Common Core, they are in fact exercising their own sound judgement. Sure, states are free to join or exit the program. Six states never adopted the standards including Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alaska, Virginia, and Minnesota. But what is telling is that within two months of creation 27 states had adopted them and the rest piled on shortly after. How? It’s almost impossible to get states to agree on anything so fast, especially with such little time for review.

Easy answer: Follow the money. The federal government was never going to pass a law that had testing and quasi-curriculum attached to it. But once the federal government found something they liked - something specifically designed to be a federal program - they simply attached money or incentives to adopting the standards. Obama’s secretary of Education was thrilled with it all. From the New York Times:

The quick adoption of common standards for what students should learn in English and math each year from kindergarten through high school is attributable in part to the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition. States that adopt the standards by Aug. 2 [2010] win points in the competition for a share of the $3.4 billion to be awarded in September.

The Obama administration tossed up a carrot that was too good for most states to not eat. With millions of dollars on the line and the ability to get waivers from No Child Left Behind (the Republican version of a bad, big government education program, though even Common Core was a bi-partisan effort), the answer was not only yes, but it was very quick yes. While the carrot and stick method has often been successful (as it was initially here) it has also failed spectacularly. Most recently, Obamacare offered huge federal subsidies as incentive for states to set up state-run health care exchanges. But only a little more than a dozen states set up the exchanges leading to the possibility that the law would be almost completely unaffordable outside of those states, assuming you consider the law “affordable” to start with. When Common Core was first developed, there weren’t really any other programs that qualified for the federal government’s grant money. That has changed, and some states are modifying the standards and opting out of much of the testing.

Opposition to Common Core Growing

While opposition to Common Core was initially seen as a going-nowhere over-reaction by crazed right-wingers, as knowledge of Common Core grows, so does opposition. Not surprisingly, Republican support of the standards fell dramatically from +30 approval in 2013 down to +6 in 2014 (43-37%) according to a study by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Quite surprisingly, teachers were right there with Republicans. In 2013, Common Core had a 76% level of support from teachers, with 12% opposing, a difference of +64. Teachers supported the standards more than any other group, including Democrats who supported the standards by +54 (64-10%) that year. But by 2014, support of the standards by teachers plummeted to 46%, while opposition grew to 40%, higher than any other subset, including Republicans. Yes, teachers now oppose Common Core more than Republicans. Given that teachers are most likely to be familiar with the standards, this might not actually be much of a surprise after all.

Many states that quickly jumped onto the Free Cash Express have had second thoughts and started to partially or fully pull out of Common Core. Indiana was the first to step away, though Michelle Malkin - one of the fiercest critics of the standards who has gathered a wealth of information on the subject - believes it is a public appeasement slight of hand. In Louisiana, Governor Jindal pulled out of the standards, joining Utah, Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

One of the drivers of Common Core opposition has come from revelations of how the standards teaches math. Barry Garelick at the Atlantic quipped that the new mental math is “a set of guidelines adopted by 45 states this year [that] may turn children into ‘little mathematicians’ who don’t know how to do actual math.” Perhaps most damaging to Common Core has been those math methods that have led to hilariously viral videos and tweets. Twitchy has compiled pages and pages of parents who have tried the “new math” often to come up empty-handed against otherwise simple math problems. Common Core might survive on some level and in some states. But unless much of the program changes, including in the eyes of educators, it might not have much of a shelf life.

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