The Unraveling of the Common Core

More and more states are becoming frustrated with the cost and mandates of the new Common Core State Standards.

Common Core State Standards, Common Core
How kids learn math and reading will shift in the states that adopted the Common Core State Standards. (Photo: Denver Post via Getty Images)
Suzi Parker is a journalist whose work also appears in The Christian Science Monitor and Reuters.

Georgia is the latest state to say no thanks to the Common Core standardized tests.

This week it was announced that Common Core tests would cost the state $29.50 per student for math and reading. Georgia education leaders were far from pleased and said they would instead write their own tests.

Oklahoma, Utah, Alabama, and Pennsylvania have also withdrawn from parts of the Common Core State Standards. A few other states, including Florida and Indiana, may not be far behind.

So, could the Common Core Standards actually be in jeopardy?

“CCSS is a state-led effort in the first place,” Jeffrey Choppin an associate professor of education at the University of Rochester, told TakePart. “If a bunch of states back out, CCSS will not have the intended impact, and sponsors, like the National Governors Association, would be upset.”

The standards were created by a 21-state consortium known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Governors and state education officials designed the math and reading standards for K-12 grades to create a consistency among states. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation primarily funded the project. Oklahoma and Georgia were, in fact, part of this consortium.

Forty-five states have signed on to the standards, which will be enacted in the 2014-15 school year. But in recent months, politics has entered the CCSS debate. Tea Party leaders and even liberals are coming out against them.

“States are backing out for different reasons,” Choppin said. “They are opting out of the testing consortia because of the cost. Other states are opting out of CCSS because some legislators see it as a federal effort, due to the Race to the Top grant competition. One of the conditions of taking that money was, [the states] had to adopt the Common Core Standards and base teacher evaluations on the tests.”

But there are other problems, too.

Choppin was part of a team of researchers from the University of Rochester, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, and Washington State University Tri-Cities, who conducted a survey of 403 middle school mathematics teachers working in 43 of the 45 states that have adopted the CCSS. The survey found that more support and resources were needed in order for educators to put the CCSS into practice.

“Very little is known about how to support teachers, specifically mathematics teachers, as they enact rigorous standards, like the Common Core, in ways that transform their current instructional practices,” Choppin said.

In five years, CCSS will fade away, as more than half the states in the union refuse to participate.

Some surveys, however, show that a majority of states support the standards. A recent study by the Center on Education Policy found that a “vast majority” of the 37 CCSS-adopting state officials participating in the survey considered it “unlikely” that their state would “reverse, limit or change its decision to adopt the standards during 2013-14.”

But there is a movement in state legislatures across the country to question the standards, especially the tests that accompany them. If more states begin to drop the tests that accompany the standards, the cohesiveness and order that binds CCSS will start to vanish.

Mark Naison, a professor at Fordham University, said that he gives the standards five years to survive.

“Compliance with Common Core is expensive, and will place a huge strain on already stretched state education budgets. It also involves data sharing that many conservatives feel challenges the right to privacy of children and families,” he told TakePart. “As more and more states withdraw, liberals will begin to join in the opposition. In five years, CCSS will fade away, as more than half the states in the union refuse to participate.”

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