July 18, 2014 10:41:45 AM
It has become politically fashionable in some circles to treat Common Core as something akin to the "mark of the beast."
More than anything else, Common Core is a victim of timing.
It didn't start out that way.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative was initiated by the National Governors Association in 2009 in an attempt to address overwhelming evidence that showed that the typical high school graduate was under-prepared for college or entry into the workforce.
At one point, 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards. The standards were written by a committee formed by the NGA composed of educators from all across the country, including Mississippi.
Mississippi was one of the states to adopt Common Core and began implementing the program in 2010 with little fanfare or concern that the new standards were a cleverly disguised attempt by the federal government to assume control over our local schools.
If that were true -- and there is zero credible evidence to support it -- Mississippi, at least, would have a difficult argument to explain why a federal takeover would be a bad thing, given the state's abysmal record when it comes to educating our children.
It's a moot point, anyway, although the misconception stubbornly persists.
Yet again, we point out that the federal government did not develop Common Core, does not require states to adopt it and does not administer it. Local schools retain the same level of authority as they have had prior to adopting Common Core.
The charge that the federal government has used extortion to convince states to adopt Common Core by tying federal funding to the program is misleading at best. While the Obama administration did say states that adopted college-and-career-ready standards could receive federal Race to the Top funding, the government did not explicitly name Common Core - or any other standards, for that matter. Some states chose to write their own standards, and those states are eligible for Race to the Top funding, too.
The other common criticism of Common Core is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the role it is intended to play. To properly understand that, it should be remembered that it is called Common Core STANDARDS not Common Core CURRICULUM.
There's a big difference to be noted. Put simply, a standard is a level of knowledge -- by the end of a certain grade a student will be proficient to a certain degree. Curriculum is how you get there, i.e. what the child studies, which remains at the discretion of the local school districts.
Some parents say the new methods being introduced are difficult, even confusing. That in and of itself is not evidence that these methods are a bad thing.
If we are going to raise the bar in education -- and few people believe that we should not -- it is naive to think that there will not be some growing pains that go along with it.
Mississippi has already invested four years in adopting and implementing Common Core Standards.
In the absence of any credible alternative, it seems wise to stay the course.