Forty-six states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, and a few states are well in to the process of implementing them. It's a tough job because the education standards call for "stacked" learning in English and math, in which each year's curriculum builds on the knowledge of the previous years. School districts are tinkering with their teaching practices and some states are mulling how to measure against the new standards.
Yet there are philosophical questions. Along comes the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group of state legislators and thinkers who believe in limited government. ALEC is considering model legislation opposing the Common Core standards, arguing that a national set of standards could lead to nationalized curriculum and impede innovation in local communities and classrooms. ALEC was supposed to vote on the proposal last week, but the group delayed the vote, according to news reports.
The most telling factor in this anecdote isn't the debate itself but the reaction to it. (Indeed, very little information about the Common Core vote has come from ALEC itself.) Nonetheless, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat who co-chairs the Common Core initiative, immediately made himself available to defend the standards when the Wall Street Journal reported that ALEC would attack them--he even offered interviews over the weekend. Markell told me that the idea that the standards are imposing unfair burdens on states is ludicrous. They are voluntary and they were developed by the states with input from school districts, teachers, and community leaders, he said. By contrast, the American Principles Project, which opposes the Common Core standards, looked forward to the vote and said it would "test ALEC's conservative chops." APP subsequently said ALEC's delay was "troubling" and accused "multi-billion dollar private entities" of lobbying for Common Core.
What is the big deal here? Why are people so concerned about saving or killing Common Core? There are a lot of opinions about whether Common Core will work or how they should be implemented, but until now I had not considered that their very existence was of concern. What do the standards symbolize that is so important? What should the public know about Common Core if they are to make an informed judgment about them?