Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were initially developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009-2010. Common Core assessments were developed by two different consortia with grants from the U.S. Department of Education. Adoption of CCSS standards and assessments were built into qualifications for Race to the Top grants and NCLB waivers.
Over the last two years, as these standards and the corresponding asseessments have begun to be introduced to the general public and implemented in districts and states, there has been a host of challenges, critique, backlash, and mixed degrees of support.
Currently, the legitimacy of the CCSS is being challenged from folks on the left and the right while other groups and education networks and organizations focus on trying to improve or use implementation efforts as a place for positive incremental change.
There are many reasons to be concerned about common core implementation. The largest of them is the robust gap that has and continues to exist in public understanding of such a dramatic change without congressional review through reauthorization or any legitimate engagement of citizens and educators. This gap feeds skeptics about the role of profiteering from the Common Core and the worries of Common Core serving as a national curriculum.
For these reasons alone, IDEA joins many other organizations in supporting calls for one and two-year moratoriums, at a minimum.
More broadly, IDEA's position is that the right response to the fractures caused by the Common Core is for a broad national conversation to ensue through the development of a new framework and real reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that includes time for testimony and examination of what our nation's relationship to shared standards and assessments needs to be to the meet the challenges of the next 25 years.
We do need to provide students with new skills and experiences to equip them for the workplaces and civic spaces of tomorrow. For students to operate successfully in the future, they will need the skills to pay careful attention to community, culture, diversity, and historical context. They need to communicate clearly and be able to solve problems with others. They need to bring creativity and compassion to their work and decision-making. Agreeing on a set of these kinds of goals is an important first step in making sure that our schools are giving all students opportunities to develop these capacities. This kind of approach to maximizing our students’ potential is what we want to see Common Core help us to achieve and if you read the Common Core standards closely, particularly the preambles, that does not seem to be far off from some of the goals in their design.
If our nation’s educational system is like a big band or orchestra: with the Common Core, the government handed out new music to play, but they didn't get in sync or even rehearse the new repertoire enough to be ready to perform it, much less to ensure the proper supports and funding to hold the performance.
States and districts should use their discretion over a proportion of the Common Core standards to augment them with materials that represent all communities and give students multiple ways to engage with the curriculum and connect with their neighborhoods. Just as different smartphones need charging stations with different connections, students need differing types of connections to the curriculum and community, such as project-based learning, internships and opportunities to apply what they have learned to real world problems.
Do you know other resources we should profile here, or do you have questions about this issue? Email IDEA Director of Learning, Dana Bennis at dbennis @ democraticeducation.org