With 2015 in full swing, the Common Core standards continue to stir controversy. You can expect that to increase as the 2016 presidential race gets under way and Common Core becomes a national political football. Here are five Common Core stories to pay attention to as we move into spring.
Our Next President?
As opposition to Common Core simmers, educational policy and reform are sure to take center stage in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. With the Iowa Caucuses less than a year away, the Republican camp is divided on Common Core (GOP candidate Jeb Bush has already come under fire for his support of the standards), and candidates from both parties are carefully weighing their positions.
Teachers and Parents Reject Exams
In January, Chicago public schools made national headlines by not going along with a state mandate requiring that Common Core–aligned PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams be given to all students. The decision is part of a movement reverberating across the nation, which includes the grassroots United Opt-Out Movement. We are also watching the fate of No Child Left Behind, which remains in political limbo after House Republicans decided to forgo a vote in late February that would have rebranded the controversial law as the Student Success Act. What this all means is not clear, but recent developments show that, at minimum, lawmakers are aware of the frustrations of students, parents, and educators.
Common Core Math
By now you’ve probably seen examples on social media of the kinds of Common Core math problems that are stumping and angering parents. When parents can’t help their children with their homework, it’s a problem. Hung-Hsi Wu, a mathematics professor at UC Berkeley and an expert adviser in the Common Core process, recently blamed the problem on bad—but ubiquitous—learning materials that the publishing industry is reluctant to change. “Publishers don’t want to bother with writing anything because they’ve gone through too many sets of standards,” he recently told NPR. But could that really be the problem?
Common Core has given rise to a new wave of concerns for educators, as teacher tenure is under attack in some states and teacher evaluations have become a hot-button issue. In his 2015 State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a new “simple and standardized” state-wide plan to rate teachers. But critics say the plan takes away nearly all local control over teacher evaluation. Even the American Statistical Association has warned about such an approach, noting that variation in test scores is often “attributable to factors outside of the teachers’ control,” such as family background, poverty, curriculum, and “unmeasured influences.” While this model is being introduced in New York, there is a real possibility that it could serve as a model for teachers across the country, giving fuel to public school opponents who would use the plan to label more teachers and schools as failures, and push for more privatization of education.
John B. King?
In December 2014, controversial New York State Commissioner of Education John B. King resigned to take a job as senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Public discontent haunted King in New York. So how will the country react if some of the educational policies similar to those he enacted in the Empire State are proposed nationally? It will be interesting to watch.