When it comes to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Fordham has long worn its heart on its sleeve: we were among the first to call for a multi-state push for higher standards and for more rigorous (and comparable) assessments. Our enthusiasm for this particular set of standards stems from our finding, dating back to 2010, that the Common Core standards are significantly stronger than what was on the books in three-quarters of the states and on par with the rest.
Still, we at Fordham pride ourselves on our open minds and willingness to change course when new evidence presents itself. So with a touch of sadness, but also courage in our convictions, we hereby renounce and repudiate our support for the Common Core.
What persuaded us? Was it the constant criticisms from our friends on the right, the name calling (ahem, “rodeo clown”?), or the questions raised about our credibility (perhaps you’ve heard about our friend Bill Gates)? Nay, as unpleasant as all of that business is, we were convinced by the plain, cold facts. They follow, in no particular order:
- The incredibly encouraging developments in Indiana. For years, we’ve been asking opponents and critics about their “plan B”—what happens if they actually get a state to reject the Common Core? We’ve been worried that it might lead to a dumbing down of standards, confusion in the classroom, or both. Indiana’s decision to pull the plug on the CCSS alleviated all concerns: the Hoosier State is demonstrating that life after the Common Core is sublime. Sure, the first draft of its “new” standards was worse than both the Core and what Indiana had in place before. True, teachers are totally frustrated over politicians changing course on them yet again, after they’d already been trained on the Common Core and developed new instructional materials. And no, nobody really knows where this will end or what kind of a test Indiana will be using just twelve short months from now. But the governor has committed to adopting the best standards in the country, and that’s good enough for us.
- Compelling arguments about the process of setting standards. As Common Core critics have long claimed, the development of the Core was hardly a perfect process. Sure, there were committees with broad state representation. And yes, some of the nation’s wisest and most respected experts in math and English language arts played a role in their crafting. And don’t get us started on the effort to look at the “best available evidence” and the multiple rounds of drafts and comment periods. But compare this to the process that gave birth to most state standards, and it’s no contest. We’ve become convinced that we should go back to the old way—namely, shove a random assortment of teachers into a room; ask them what they think kids should maybe be expected to know; paper over any disagreement with vague, meaningless statements; throw everybody’s favorite idea into the pot (and throw out anything that upsets anybody for any reason whatsoever). Then call it a day.
- Legitimate worries about Common Core curricula. We’ve all seen the stories—at least, Fox News and Daily Caller fans have: the Common Core standards have spawned all manner of curricular nonsense, from fuzzy math and ideological indoctrination to racy “works of literature.” Just because most of the alleged materials were produced long before the Common Core was written doesn’t contradict the idea that Common Core is responsible. Nor does the fact that there’s no such thing as a “Common Core curriculum.” (Well, except the one these guys are peddling, but that doesn’t count.) And as for the argument that curriculum continues to be the province of local school boards, we must ask ourselves: Is that even a good thing?
So there you have it. We do apologize to our readers and supporters who have followed us over the Common Core cliff these past four years (like lemmings, let’s be real). But worry not: we’ll come up with some new reformy scheme to sell to you in the near future, just as soon as we raise a little more money for our advocacy efforts. (Did we mention that our Gates grant just ran out?)
Until then, remember: the Common Core is for commies and crooks. Case closed.