This week several states test whether their students are meeting common core standards—but some students are sitting out in protest, the New York Times reports. Students who choose to sit out won’t see serious punishments, but if enough don’t take the test, the school as a whole could face consequences, like lost funds or amped up monitoring. It’s not clear exactly how many people will be in on this ‘sit-out,’ but what’s particularly notable is the assortment of coalitions sympathetic to their cause:
“There are forces united against it on the left side of the aisle and the right of the aisle,” said James Crisfield, a former superintendent of the school district in Millburn, N.J. “We’re also talking about things that are happening to one’s child. You mix that all up into a caldron and it does create some really high levels of interest, high levels of passion — and, shall we say, enthusiasm.”
The left dislikes it because the tests provide fodder for evaluating teachers and the right dislikes it because they are suspicious of uniform federal standards foisted on different states. That latter objection seems right to us—evaluation is good, but should be locally generated—but the more interesting point the article raises is how bipartisan this intense grassroots opposition is. In a polarized country, perhaps common core has achieved the miraculous feat of uniting unions and parents afraid of a “federal takeover”of education. That suggests in turn just how difficult it has become to solve problems on the federal level. As we remarked on another occasion, “America is too big and its citizens are too diverse for one-size-fits-all solutions to some of our culture war issues.” If the common core movement is any guide, that may be true for education policy, as well.