Why does the Common Core make people so mad?

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Common Core State Standards have been pitched as everything from the Great Savior to the Great Demon of U.S. public education. This has been confusing for many people, including me, since the actual content of the standards doesn’t seem particularly off-putting. There’s room for informed debate on pedagogy, developmentally appropriate objectives, and other inside baseball, but the political aspect of it is a bit perplexing.

My current hypothesis: It isn’t the standards themselves that are driving the controversy, so much as it is everything else about their creation and implementation. Here are a few examples of what the Common Core has come to represent.

Much of the skepticism to current reform hot topics like choice and “accountability” systems comes from concern about a relatively small number of privileged elites driving big changes without checking in with the people on the ground. The design of the Common Core standards followed a similar pattern.

Back in 2009, when the two groups charged with writing the standards were convened, neither group (one for math, one for English/Language Arts) had a classroom teacher involved. There were, among others, a few university professors, some consultants, and a lot of people from testing outfits (the College Board and the ACT) and Achieve, a nonprofit organization whose major work is mostly about the Common Core.

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