The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Common Core Attacked From Both Sides

Classroom

Obama’s signature education initiative, the Common Core curriculum, may be in serious trouble. The New York Times reports that the Tea Party and a number of left-leaning parents have become unlikely allies in the fight against the rollout of the initiative, although they oppose it for slightly different reasons. For the Tea Party, the Common Core is a textbook case of federal intrusion and overreach. The parents, on the other hand, are worried that the standardized tests accompanying the curriculum are too difficult (or that teachers are ill prepared to train students to pass them). Although this hasn’t yet coalesced into a solid opposition movement, some of the measure’s supporters are concerned that it could:

New York State, an early adopter of the new standards, released results from reading and math exams showing that less than a third of students passed.

“I am worried that the Common Core is in jeopardy because of this,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “The shock value that has happened has been so traumatic in New York that you have a lot of people all throughout the state saying, ‘Why are you experimenting on my kids?’”…

“The danger here is that you have two kinds of problems going on,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that works to close achievement gaps. “One is a Tea Party problem, which doesn’t have deep roots but does have lots of political muscle behind it, and then you’ve got a bit of anti-test rebellion coming from the left. The question is what’s going to happen if they both get together. That’s the more terrifying prospect.”

In our view, both of these arguments demonstrate the key problem with most federal education reform efforts. Like many of its predecessors, the Common Core attempts to impose a national, one-size fits all standard on a massive, heterogenous country. Despite the best efforts of reformers in Washington to understand what goes on in the thousands of classrooms across the country, local principles and teachers have a much better idea of where their students stand and what they need to succeed.

Rather than moving toward a model in which standards are developed at the national level and handed down to individual school systems, we would prefer a model that grants teachers more authority and responsibility to make decisions about curricula and teaching methods. Ideally, this would be paired with a voucher system that allows parents to hold the teachers accountable for the decisions they make.

[Classroom image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Published on August 16, 2013 3:10 pm
  • Bill Cavanaugh

    In the next to last paragraph, it should be Principals, those who lead schools, not Principles, hopefully that which is taught!

  • Corlyss

    Ever since the Feds got involved in curriculum, there’s been a decline in the standards and the system’s ability to educate students to even a minimum level of comprehension. The reliance on tests to demonstrate the effectivity of the curriculum, indeed the reliance on any measurement standards, has led to the sort of waiving of standards because so many kids fail the standard. That has been precisely the same characteristic of the civil service exam ever since the civil rights pimps discovered the exam. The end result is a “who’s kidding whom” sentiment that the tests are useless for measuring anything because as soon as they eliminate the first student, suddenly the test is suspect and the results are thrown out. The constant search for the “right mix” has left us with an adult population progressively dumber than their predecessors.

  • johngbarker

    So much of child’s academic achievement is a product of family background, especially the education level of the parents, that remedial education of underprepared students may never be sufficient to close the gap. Is it really good policy to attempt to make every student a scholar or scientist, or do we need to take look at educating students for careers in which they may have a decent chance for success.

  • Pete

    ” ….we would prefer a model that grants teachers more authority and responsibility to make decisions about curricula and teaching methods.”

    Good God, no.

    Local standards should be set by the community, not the hired help.

    And besides, public school teachers are themselves the product of a Mickey Mouse education by virtue of being education majors, which, according to standardized tests,rank at the bottom of the barrel of the collegiate world.

    Relying on teachers to set standards would be the be a case of the blind (teachers) leading the blind (the students).

    The one thing the public school teachers excel in is looking out for their own self-interest through their union activities. Fact.

    • Boritz

      Completely straight.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Where in the constitution is Federal authority over education enumerated? The entire Education Dept. is in violation of the 10th Amendment.

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”