One year ago this month, in September 2013, we opened our inaugural PW column with a look at the myths and realities that surround the Common Core State Standards. A year later, a full-blown controversy has erupted over implementation of the standards, and the future remains uncertain.
A general malaise about the Common Core has been confirmed by the results of a recent PDK/Gallup poll that surveyed American attitudes toward public education. The results show that awareness about the standards is on the rise, but support for them has crumbled. The survey found that 60% of Americans oppose “requiring teachers in their community to use the Common Core State Standards.” Another poll conducted in spring 2014 by the journal Education Next shows growing opposition among teachers. Notably, a majority of teachers supported the standards when polled just one year earlier by the National Education Association, although some expressed reservations about the lack of funding, training, and support needed to prepare for implementation.
Homeschooling on the Rise
Parents are also making their opinions of the standards known, and many are turning to homeschooling as an alternative to public education. In recent months, homeschooling parents have organized; they represent an influential camp in the campaign against Common Core—and their voices are being heard.
In Oklahoma, homeschooling parents were integral to the successful effort to repeal the standards. And PBS Newshour recently aired a story about parents in Louisiana who have turned to homeschooling while state legislators battle in court over the fate of the Common Core there.
The homeschooling movement now seems poised to become a force in education policy debates. According to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the number of homeschooled students grew by almost 300,000 since the previous report in 2007. Publishers have taken note—these parents represent substantial collective buying power. The Homeschool Buyers Co-op is a prime example of this power. The co-op is able to procure educational discounts by “combining the purchasing power of thousands of homeschooling families around the country.”
The publishing industry is also responding to the demand for homeschooling resources and curriculums. As information about Common Core spread, many publishers began marketing their titles as “Common Core aligned.” Now, some companies have identified another growing, but mostly untapped market: parents are seeking curriculums and materials that do not correlate to the Common Core standards.
Discovery K12, an online K–12 homeschool platform and curriculum, announced the release of its non–Common Core curriculum in August. The company is undertaking a print and digital marketing campaign to support the line. “We often receive emails from parents saying, ‘I’m so glad to hear you are not Common Core!’ ” said Sheri Wells, Discovery K12 founder and developer. The homeschool market “predominantly prefers a non–Common Core curriculum,” mainly driven by the belief that each child’s ability to learn is unique. “Personalized curriculum to support students that are at different levels in different subjects is a huge demand,” Wells said.
Meanwhile, opposition notwithstanding, Common Core developments also continue. Recently, the nonprofit organization EdReports.org (funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) announced that its free online reviews of commonly used print and online instructional materials, including textbooks, will now include ratings, similar to those used by Consumer Reports, that assess to what degree the materials are aligned with Common Core. Some educators feel that such a rating system is needed, as teachers continue to report that their curricula do not align with the new standards.
When looking back on the past year, it’s hard not to wonder about the fate of the Common Core standards. Will there continue to be a forced implementation amid protests from parents and educators? Will more states work toward repealing Common Core? Will schools receive the resources and training needed to make the standards work?
As the story continues to unfold, we will keep monitoring the ebb and flow of support and opposition for the standards. In the meantime, share your thoughts and opinions. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.