Is Bad Politics Killing the Common Core?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Americans are not on the same page about education. A new poll shows a lack of support for the national education standards — or Common Core State Standards – developed by the National Governors Association.

The numbers are saying that Americans would rather the curriculum for students be decided by their state and local governments than the national standards. Common Core education is opposed by 59 percent of Americans, according to a Gallup poll. And 65 percent of respondents rated the notion that “Common Core State Standards will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach that they think is best” as a very important reason to oppose the use of such standards.

“The rush to implement the standards has also led to inadequate support for teachers, inadequate communication with our public and a major pushback from teachers who have connected Common Core with standardized testing,” said Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s state education commissioner, according to U.S. News & World Report. Standardized testing is often criticized for limiting teachers’ classroom flexibility and forcing them to teach to a test that might not benefit students in every state — or even every area of every state. 

Even beyond teachers’ flexibility, many Americans may be trepidatious about national standards for education. Part of the reason for this could be that Americans are more comfortable with state or locally made decisions than with those made by the federal government. According to Gallup, 71 percent of Americans expressed a great deal or fair amount of trust in local government, and 62 percent expressed trust in state government. The federal government is much less trusted: 51 and 62 percent of Americans express a great deal or fair amount of trust in the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, respectively, and the legislative branch only has 34 percent showing the same trust.

At the same time, the political dissent about the initiative has changed opinion over time. U.S. News & World Report cited a survey by Education Next, an education journal, that found 76 percent of teachers were supportive of the standards in 2013, but that support fell to only 46 percent in 2014. Such turns in opinion may have been led by politicians swapping their positions. For example, Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said in June that he wanted his state out of the standards and the associated testing consortium, when he had previously supported the initiative.

Unsurprisingly, the Common Core has also divided the country along party lines. Only 17 percent of Republicans questioned favored it, while 53 precent of Democrats approved of the standards. Many have speculated that Jindal’s change in opinion was entirely political — he’s a 2016 presidential hopeful.

The standards are also debated because of the long-developed differences between states and regions. Many claim there was not enough public consultation during the development of the Common Core Standards and don’t trust that they are the best curriculum for the entire nation. Even specific teachings are coming under criticism — debate has been sparked in Ohio, for example, concerning whether or not schools can continue to teach creationism in science classes.

Despite criticism and some states repealing or reviewing, forty states and Washington, D.C., still have adapted the Common Core State Standards.

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