Common Core catastrophe?

States rushed the adoption of Common Core standards to be eligible for federal grants, Bill Evers, a former assistant secretary of Education, tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

. . . I really think it’s better to not have a national set of curriculum content standards. It’s better that various states try out their best idea of how to do these things, so maybe Pennsylvania will borrow some ideas from Massachusetts or Indiana, or try some ideas of its own.

Common Core is a “utopian project to align all the classrooms in the country to be doing roughly the same things,” says Evers. “Anything like that is just an unimaginably difficult, complex thing.”

The standards themselves, the standards are lists of topics that the child is expected to learn in each grade. The standards have some sloppiness problems and they have some, I guess you could call them doctrinal, problems where they are trying to teach a certain kind of progressive education. And that may not work out too well. . . . the previous attempts to do this sort of thing have failed. There was new math in the wake of Sputnik, there was an attempt at national standards by George H.W. Bush, and there were two attempts in the Clinton administration at national standards and testing and curriculum. They both failed.

Will it do more harm than good? “I think it has the potential to be catastrophic,” replies Evers.

Opposition to the new standards is growing, writes George Will. The Common Core is “designed to advance in primary and secondary education the general progressive agenda of centralization and uniformity.”

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    I wonder how different curricula have actually been. Lots of places require some local history, and there are different orders and emphases–is Algebra 1 in 8th or 9th or 10th grade? Are there two years of American history and one year of world history or two years of world history and one year of American history–but how much difference does it make in terms of what high school graduates take away from school? Most of the details are quickly forgotten.

    Was it ever true that New York graduates were different from Massachusetts graduates were different from Nebraska graduates?

    • In order to graduate from high school in 1981 in my district (southern nevada) you needed a total of 19 credit hours (out of 24) which included:

      English I/II (2 credits)
      1 additional unit of english (literature/composition)
      Math (2 credits)
      Phys Ed (2 credits)
      Science (2 credits)
      World History/US History/US Gov’t (3 credits)
      Health Ed (1/2 credit), driver’s ed (1/4 credit), careers (1/4th credit)
      Foreign Language or Arts (1 credit)
      and the rest could be electives.

      The required courses had to be passed, if you didn’t have them passed, you made them up in summer school.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        I suspect most states had similar requirements. No doubt details differed but I’ll bet an analyst could take all 50 states in any year and pull out a “core” common to all of them.

        One bit of evidence: Most all high school courses use textbooks. Textbooks are a national market. Publishers didn’t seem to find it impossible to publish books that were usable in every state. Partly they did this by being over-inclusive but there does seem to have been a de facto no-capital-letters common core.