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Opinions Differ on “Common Core” Standards

By Kristian Weatherspoon | Published 10 Apr 2013 04:16am | comments

By Dan Carsen

Southern Education Desk (Birmingham, AL)- There's been a revolution in American K-12 education: the "Common Core State Standards." Released in 2010, they're math and language arts standards meant to raise rigor and establish consistency across the nation.

 

They've been adopted in 45 states. But even in those places, all is not quiet on the Common Core front.  

A wise person once said, "If a liar says it's daytime, that doesn't make it dark." That subtle thought may apply to the controversy over Common Core. The new standards aren't exactly fun to read - most peoplehaven't, and that's part of why pundit Glenn Beck can say this.

"Our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology. That should terrify most people," says Beck.
 
Conservative activists are fired up. That's certainly true in Alabama, which has adopted the new standards.

"Your child will not be able to escape Common Core materials that are anti-Christian, anti-capitalism, and anti-America, or that are pro-homosexuality, illegal immigration, unions,
environmentalism, gun control, feminism, and social justice."

That's Elois Zeanah, president of the state's Federation of Republican Women, at aTea Party meeting. She goes on.

"Remember the quote by Hitler, 'Give me your children, and in 10 years I'll change society'? The Obama administration intends to do just that," she says.
 
State senator Dick Brewbaker sponsored a bill to pull Alabama out of Common Core. It failed, but similar measures are popping up all over. Even so, Brewbaker himself admits some criticism is off-base.

"Let's put it this way: the only 'conspiracy' is one to make money," says Brewbaker.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, not Obama, developed Common Core. But guilt-by-association aside, Obama's education department has used grant money to "encourage" states to adopt it.

And speaking of money, publishing and assessment companies do stand to make a ton. "Common Core aligned" is a strong sales pitch.

But Brewbaker says school innovation has come from what he calls "our 50 laboratories." And closer tohome,

"Our problem in Alabama has never been low standards. Our problem is we are a low-funding state. We are a state with a very high dropout rate. We are losing far too many students, and I
just don't think content standards are why they're leaving school," continues Brewbaker.

Many educators think Common Core will increase use of high-stakes tests, boosting pressure to cheat or turn schools into test-prep factories where standards become curriculum: Instead of learning a book full of literary techniques, Johnny gets separate exercises on identifying theme, context clues, and alliteration. That's the opposite of Common Core's intent, but it does happen on the ground.

But supporters say kids who move from one state to another will make easier academic transitions under Common Core. Alabama is already using the math standards. At Walker Elementary in rural Northport, master teacher Beth Moore likes it.

“Rather than just hitting the surface on a lot of things, I'm really going deep. It has kicked my job up to a level that has been a real challenge for me, and is an ongoing challenge, oh yes. (In a good
way?) Oh, absolutely, in an exciting way. I don't wanna be an old teacher -- you can teach an old dog new tricks, but she's gotta get in there and work on it. It increases the level of rigor tremendously," says Moore.

Many foundations, business and education reform groups support Common Core. So do school administrators who don't want to squeeze the metaphorical toothpaste back into the tube, despite
some growing pains. 

So, will Common Core really be good for American education? It's too early to tell, but this big ball is rolling, and there are a lot of adults behind it. And kids in front of it.

 

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