Backlash over Common Core State Standards

Literacy teacher Jessica Cuthbertson said she attempted to fully implement the new standards in her sixth-grade Aurora, Colo., classroom for the first time this year and found her students’ writing was “substantially better.”

“I feel that often the debate isn’t about the learning,” said Cuthbertson, who also trains teachers to use the new standards as part of her job with a virtual teacher leadership initiative called the Center for Teaching Quality. “We’re not talking about what the kids are producing and doing with these cool standards. We’re talking about the big brother federal government controlling curriculum. I don’t think it’s really grounded in student learning, and yet in the hands of teachers focused on student learning, I just think there is nothing but hope.”

While the federal government wasn’t involved in developing the standards, it has provided $350 million to two consortia developing Common Core tests. The federal Education Department also encouraged states to adopt the standards to compete for “Race to the Top” grants and seek waivers around some of the unpopular proficiency requirements of the No Child Left Behind federal education act.

“They have done some things that have kind of muddied the waters at the very least,” said Butcher of the Goldwater Institute. “It’s hard for me to say, `Well, clearly the federal government has no interest in this.'”

But in Michigan, where the Republican-led Legislature is taking steps aimed at halting the standards, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is defending them as a “really important opportunity” for the state.

“Unfortunately, it’s been too much about politics,” he said. “It’s being viewed as the federal government putting another federal mandate on us. … It was the governors of the states getting together … to say we want a partner at the national level and all levels to say, `Let’s raise the bar.'”

Some states are seeking to slow implementation, while others are trying to repeal the standards altogether. Legislation pending in some states would prevent adoption of standards in other subjects, such as social studies or science.

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