Common Core Standards Under Attack

Annie TeichThere are now nine states that are backpedaling in some way from previous adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Tea Party opposition groups back some “Stop the Core” movements, but other push back comes from a mix of teacher and parent groups as well as Republican and Democratic politicians. Originally, state-level education officials approved adoption of the standards in each state. For the most part, these officials still support the transition to more rigorous curriculum standards.

Collective objections include:

  • 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.

Here is a snapshot of current state activity:

States Pushing BackNever AdoptedPaused ImplementationDowngraded Participation—Withdrew from National TestsIntroduced Anti-Common Core Measures
Alaska ✓   


Early state adopters aligned their curriculum to the Common Core and began teaching with the new standards in 2011, however most states begin using the standards this fall. The testing requirements go into effect next school year, 2014-2015.

We have previously outlined the technology challenges to Common Core implementation in this post and new professional development opportunities and strategies here, so let’s turn our attention to several of the other objections listed above.

Stealth Federal Curriculum
Tea Party activists and other states’ rights proponents claim that the Common Core Standards are a thinly veiled federal mandate. Created by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and largely funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In conjunction with federal incentives senior education officials quickly adopted the standards in most states. While opponents are vocal, it is unlikely that state education officials will reverse their decision, particularly as they are now in mid-deployment.

Sticker Shock
For states that have traditionally had low expenses for testing students, the new testing consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) estimate that per student costs will range from $22.50 to $29.50. Diagnostic and practice tests would increase this figure. When coupled with the necessary investment in tech infrastructure and hardware to conduct the tests, the required funding is more than financially strapped districts and states can afford.

Potential Failure
There is plenty of evidence that NCLB’s focus on testing did little to address equity issues between well-funded schools and those that are under-funded. And in the years since NCLB was adopted, US school performance has continued to fall against that of other developed countries. There is agreement that the Common Core standards are an attempt to address this gap by benchmarking skills needed for success in a global economy. The concern is that these more rigorous standards will result in widespread failure as exhibited by the recent test results in New York City Schools.

Certainly, some of the Common Core discord can be attributed to the difference between aspiration and implementation where the practicalities of adoption are worked out by each district and school. However, when there is a dramatic shift in the status quo, as there is with the transition to the Common Core, there is opportunity in the market place to create customized products that address new realities.