Why there’s a Common Core backlash

In response to a conservative defense of Common Core Standards, Heritage fellow Lindsey M. Burke describes the conservative backlash on National Review Online.

The federal government has spent billions to move Common Core forward, and it has put billions more on the line. Unfortunately, parents, teachers, tea-party activists, and governors have every reason to believe Common Core represents major, unprecedented federal intervention into education.

In theory, Common Core is a state initiative. But the Obama administration has pushed states to adopt the new standards, Burke writes.

Washington is financing the two national testing consortia that are creating the Common Core assessments. Lawmakers have tied $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants to the adoption of standards similar to those found in a significant number of states, and they’ve made the adoption of Common Core a major factor in securing a No Child Left Behind waiver. And now, they have established a technical-review panel to work with the testing consortia on item design and validation.

For an undertaking that claims to be largely free of federal involvement, Common Core has quite a few federal fingerprints on it.

Many parents and teachers share an “understandable fear” that “the federal government is on the brink of dictating the content taught in every school,” Burke concludes.

I wish the feds had allowed Common Core to remain a state effort.

Virginia’s goals: Is ‘achievable’ OK?

Virginia’s “together and unequal” expectations for low-income, minority and disabled students received a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind, complained Andrew Rotherham, a former state school board member. He suggested more ambitious targets to narrow the achievement gap in Eduwonk.

The controversy “shows reformers’ fealty to ideology over implementation,” responds Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. If NCLB’s “objectives, carrots, and sticks are to actually motivate educators, and not just demoralize them, they must been seen as achievable.” b

To be sure, even Virginia officials have agreed that the goals put into their ESEA application weren’t ambitious enough; they will come back later this month with more challenging targets for their poor and minority students. That’s fair; groups that are further behind should be expected to make greater progress over time.

On Dropout Nation, RiShawn Biddle argues for common targets for all students: Virginia set low expectations for black, Latino and poor students because it’s reluctant to push “the strong reforms needed” to improve achievement, he writes.

Duncan: Non-core states can get waivers

States don’t need to adopt Common Core Standards to get a No Child Left Behind waiver, says Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Common Core hold-outs — Texas, Alaska, Virginia, Nebraska and Montana — can qualify by proving they have high standards that prepare students for state colleges and universities.

 

More states plan to defy NCLB

Idaho, Montana and South Dakota plan to ignore No Child Left Behind’s proficiency targets, unless Congress acts to modify the law, reports Ed Week.  The three states have told Education Secretary Arne Duncan they’ll “stop the clock as the 2014 deadline approaches for bringing all students to proficiency in math and language arts” to limit the number of schools that face penalties for failure to make progress.

Kentucky has asked permission to use its own accountability system.

The Education Department has offered waivers only to states that agree to federally approved reforms. Roll-your-own waiver is not an option, said Justin Hamilton, the department spokesperson, on Tuesday.