States Reconsider Common Core

Jun 13, 2014

The Common Core education standards have been a point of contention for school boards around the country. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards which aim to create a more homogenous education across the country.

While many states signed on, some states have already completely dropped the program and others make modifications in state legislatures where there are currently more than 340 bills addressing college and career readiness programs.

Adrienne Lu, staff writer for Stateline, the daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts, speaks with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti about her in-depth look at states and the Common Core curriculum.


  • Adrienne Lu, staff writer for Stateline. She tweets @adriennelu.
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This is HERE AND NOW. It's been an active year in state legislatures, particularly, when it comes to education policy and the Common Core. That's a set of math and English language arts standards voluntarily adopted four years ago by all but a small group of states. But over the past year, criticism of the Common Core has gained steam, from various parent and teacher groups. All the way to comedian Louis C.K., who said Common Core creates a, quote, "massive stressball that hangs over the whole school."

Now, all of this has led to an avalanche of legislation, more than 300 bills in 46 states, that address education standards. Adrienne Lu has taken a look at all of this legislative activity. And she's staff writer Stateline, the daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Adrienne, welcome.

ADRIENNE LU: Thank you.

CHAKRABARTI: So first of all, before we really dive into your sort of state-by-state analysis, I think it's worth actually just taking a step back and giving people a reminder about exactly what the Common Core is.

LU: Yeah, so the Common Core is state standards in English language arts and math that sets out what students should be able to do in each grade level, so that by the time they graduate high school they are ready for either college or careers.

CHAKRABARTI: So that's broadly speaking what the Common Core is. But it's being rolled out individually on a state-by-state basis. And you've reported that, as of May 15 of this year, there were actually more than 340 bills related to college and career readiness standards in the Common Core in various states across the country. First of all, is that a lot or do we see hundreds of bills about education in states on an average year, regardless of the Common Core?

LU: No, it is a lot and that figure comes from the National Conference of State Legislators. And it's highly unusual. You know, I've talked to a number of experts who said this was a really unusual legislative session and that really dominated the conversation. Even when lawmakers weren't talking directly about the Common Core, they were talking about many different types of bills that were inspired by the Common Core in some way.

CHAKRABARTI: Can you give us some examples?

LU: Yeah, so some of them started talking about the Next Generation Science Standards, which are the science version of the Common Core. And another really good example is student data privacy, which is an issue that's been around for a long time. But for some reason with all of the opposition to the Common Core this year, it's really gain some traction. And so we've seen about a dozen bills adopted across the country and a number of states moving to try to protect student data privacy.

CHAKRABARTI: Does this high number bills indicate a growing discomfort with the Common Core from state-to-state?

LU: Yeah, absolutely. In most of the states, the Common Core was adopted by either a state school board of education or a chief education officer of some kind. And it was really done without a lot of fanfare a few years ago. And more recently, as people have started to learn more about the Common Core and as some of the opponents have become more and more vocal in their criticism, I think that it has reached a, you know, critical mass. And that some of that criticism has finally reached the state house level. And that's why we're starting to see so much legislation this year on it.

CHAKRABARTI: What are the primary arguments in support and against it?

LU: So the primary arguments in favor of the Common Core are they helped prepare students for college and careers and not only that. That they're comparable from state to state, so that you can compare how a student is doing and how states are doing against each other. As far as critics, they are many different criticisms, but I think the main ones are a concern that the federal government is trying to force these standards on the states in some way.

Some people argue that they're not as academically challenging as the standards that their particular state had in place before. Some people have criticized the implementation of the standards. They've talked about poor teacher training in some states and the curriculum materials, which are, you know, developed in the private sector and vary, widely. There are also people who are concerned that teachers are being evaluated based on how their students are doing on these tests, even though they're so new. And they're saying it's too early to be judging teachers based on how their students are doing, when we're just rolling these out.

CHAKRABARTI: And in your report, you quote one of the critics of the Common Core, an educator who's with the American Principles Project - basically talking about in some areas, the groundswell of concern about Common Core. And the person says I think this movement's going to explode. We're entering a new era of the activist mom, who's really going to be directing government as the founders intended. But on the other hand, I don't see very - from your reporting, very many states have fully abandoned the Common Core.

LU: That's true. Really only three states that have unofficially backed off, so far, on the Common Core of the ones that initially adopted it. So initially 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted the standards in both English language arts and math. And Minnesota did, as well, only in the English language art.

And so far, Indiana has already replaced their standards with their own standards. South Carolina has said they'll keep the Common Core in place through 2014, '15 school year. But they want to have a new set of standards by 2015, '16. And Oklahoma has also officially revoked the common core. And there are a couple other states North Carolina and Missouri that are possibly headed in that direction we are not which are yet.

CHAKRABARTI: Interesting. That you mention a little bit ago the next generation science standards which are essentially -- that the science of quickly to the comic were right?

LU: Right.

CHAKRABARTI: And so speaking of South Carolina South Carolina has already rejected the program. What happened there?

LU: Have. A couple of years ago they proactively in their state budget the Legislature said that they didn't want to fund the limitation of the next generation science standards. And it's interesting because you know state legislators don't typically become involved in state education standards up until now. And we're seeing is result with common core some lawmakers are saying well we really want to have a role in this and have passed legislation to do that in some states.

But where they do have authority is to report things were not reporting. And with all that is outdoor lighting into Wyoming in March as well state legislature did the same thing. They said we don't want to find any national science standard.

CHAKRABARTI: So as you look across the country in terms of how states have been grappling with all the issues brought up by England of the common core are there any lessons to be learned in terms of federal and state interaction when it comes to implementation of any sort of standard?

LU: I think state lawmakers would take from this whole situation at it would like to be involved in the sort of decision. We solve this year that many state lawmakers were taken by surprise by the amount of criticism and attention that this issue drew. And many have said that in the future they want to be involved in some way when the state adopt new standards. So I think in the future we will see that a lot more.

CHAKRABARTI: While Adrian Lu is a staff writer for Stateline. Adrian thank you so much.

LU: Thank you very much.

CHAKRABARTI: And you are listening to here and now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.