As educators struggle to implement the rigorous new standards, state education leaders are seeing a growing pushback from critics
Millions of students will take new online tests rooted in the Common Core standards for math and reading this year, but policy makers in many states are having buyer’s remorse.
The fight to repeal the standards has heated up in Ohio, with state Rep. Andy Thompson, a Republican, saying it’s kind of “creepy the way this whole thing landed in Ohio with all the things prepackaged.”
It’s playing out in Louisiana, where GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal is in a nasty feud involving his former ally, Education Superintendent John White. Jindal has sued the Obama administration, accusing Washington of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards.
The standards were scrapped this year in Indiana and Oklahoma. Governors in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Missouri have signed legislation to reconsider the standards, even though they still will be used in those three states this fall.
Like many critics, Thompson and Jindal base their opposition on federal support of the standards. But states led the Common Core movement that really took off in 2009, and that effort was (largely) voluntary.
The administration offered incentives to states to adopt college and career-ready standards, and Common Core fit the bill. These incentives included cash grants and permission to ignore parts of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law.
The standards emphasize critical thinking and spell out what reading and math skills students should grasp at each grade level, while leaving how those skills are mastered up to districts and states. The hope was that higher standards shared across state lines would allow for shared resources, comparable student performance measures, and smoother school-to-school transitions for children who move, such as military kids.
Every state but five—Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia—adopted the standards when the final version became available.
Debate turns political
The debate over Common Core has spilled into the national political realm. Among potential GOP presidential candidates in 2016, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush supports the standards; Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul do not.
(Next page: How public opinion about the standards has shifted—and how state policy makers are reacting as a result)