The State of the Core

This article originally appeared on the MCH Data blog.

At the beginning of this 2013-2014 school year, we wrote here about the emerging discord and concern around the Common Core Standards. Just to refresh, the main objections centered on the following:

  • The Common Core comprises a “stealth” federal curriculum
  • Adoption was coerced by the tie-in to federal education funding
  • Too few teachers involved in their development
  • Sticker shock at the cost of online testing for all students
  • Too little technology capacity to support online testing
  • Insufficient teacher professional development
  • Widespread NCLB failure does not support move to more rigorous standards.

We are now within sight of the end of the school year and these issues have continued to unfold. In fact, we are now seeing real pull back from several states. Indiana, after being an early adopter, is the first state to officially pull out of the Common Core completely. It will replace it with a state program whose standards mirror the Common Core Standards but will be called something else.

The Oklahoma legislature is currently considering legislation to strip the new standards of the name “Common Core.” And in North Carolina there is a committee in the legislature that is expected to make a recommendation next week to back out of or keep the Common Core.

In every state that adopted the standards, there are organized efforts to repeal them. Two things have become clear. First, the standards have become a political football, and there are serious, committed educators on both sides of the issue.

Even states that may keep the standards are pulling out of the assessment consortiums – Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). The following states have already pulled out:

·      SBAC – Utah, Alabama, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Alaska

·      PARCC – Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Florida

States that are actively considering their withdrawal from the assessment consortium are: Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Iowa.

One of the newer issues to develop is a parents’ movement to “opt out” from the end-of-grade-tests. Opting out means that parents retract permission for their children to be tested as these scores will not affect whether or not they move on to the next grade. The districts’ response to these opt-outs range from allowing the student to go to the library and read while the other students are being tested to making the student “sit and stare” while classmates are being tested. Through their advocacy, parents are forcing districts to reveal their policies. What these parents have found is that when challenged to identify the district policy that specifically prohibits the opt-out action, districts have no policy to enforce.

It apparently never occurred to districts that parents might resist testing in a formal way. Unfortunately, it is difficult to mount these objections without the atmosphere getting emotional, even belligerent with students caught in the middle of a philosophical dilemma.

Two other national forces are impacting the pull-back on Common Core. Opponents like Diane Ravitch, an educational policy analyst who refutes the appropriate development of the standards, suggests that there has not been enough international benchmarking and that they were developed with too much corporate interest.

Also both national teachers unions, (NEA and AFT) support the standards but want more time before the implementation of teacher evaluations that are tied to student performance.

The importance for education marketers to all of this is obvious. It is a shifting landscape that can become emotional quicksand in a politicized environment. Keeping track of the emotional temperature of Common Core relative to your target customers has become a critical success factor for your business, at least in the short-term. And it is important to remember that there are committed educators on both sides of this issue and even disagreement within individual districts.


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