Let's start with the bad and ugly. The Brookings Institution issued a report last week that wasn't too kind to the Common Core State Standards, arguing that they will do nothing to help lagging student performance. Here's a sample: "The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students' achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools."
At the same time, South Carolina is all a flurry about whether to stop the state from implementing the Common Core standards. Some lawmakers say the standards represent an intrusion of the federal government into a fundamental state and local prerogative. In Utah, some lawmakers want to make sure the state Legislature signs off on any federal directives related to the Common Core standards before they are implemented, to guard against "federal tentacles."
Now for the good. General Electric is so certain that the Common Core standards are the best way to boost student achievement that it recently made the largest corporate grant in history to further their implementation, $18 million. The money will go to a non-profit group Student Achievement Partners to help teachers implement the standards. David Coleman, one of the non-profit's founders (and also a major contributor to the Common Core standards), said the GE-funded tools that his group will provide are "elegant" and will help teachers make sense of standards that arguably are more arduous than basic reading and math. Coleman said he is not pained by the Brookings study or the state hand-wringing over the Common Core standards because he sees the support for them every day with average teachers.
For better or worse, the Common Core standards may be the only game in town for the next few years as the federal policy is mired in congressional gridlock. What is the value of Common Core? Is it true that the standards won't boost student achievement? Or can they accomplish their goals with the right implementation? Are they an infringement of states' rights? Or are people just worried because the standards are higher? What are the next steps for Common Core?