Common Core standards also under attack from the left

2013-09-29T08:30:00Z Common Core standards also under attack from the leftSTEVEN ELBOW | The Capital Times | selbow@madison.com madison.com

While the tea party mounts its well-funded, organized attack on Common Core educational standards, the attack from the left has been kicked to the sidelines.

But there's a strong progressive push-back to the standards as well.

“The liberal critique of Common Core is that this is a huge, profit-making enterprise that costs school districts a tremendous amount of money, and pushes out the things kids love about school, like art and music,” Mark Naison, a professor at Fordham University in New York, told the Miami Herald.

Naison is co-founder of the Badass Teachers Association, formed to combat what they say is a trend toward corporate-driven standardized testing. The group now boasts about 25,000 members.

On the group's website, Naison says forming the group is a reaction to high-stakes testing, backed by Democrats and Republicans alike, used to evaluate schools and teachers. And the group opposes what Naison calls the "micromanagement" of classrooms that Common Core entails.

"This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning," reads the group's guiding statement.

Common Core standards have been adopted by 46 states, including Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. They were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative also has corporate backing, like this ad from ExxonMobil.

Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education, has in the past supported standardized testing, as well as charter schools. She's now a vocal critic of both.

In her blog earlier this year, Ravitch noted that states have been railroaded into adopting Common Core because if they don't, they become ineligible for billions in federal Race to the Top funding.

"They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time," she writes.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Lisa Nielson, in her Innovative Educator blog, calls the standards "frightening."

"This back-to-basics approach champions grouping kids by date of manufacture and teaching them all the same thing at the same time regardless of their developmental or language differences," she writes. "In other words, it sets them up for failure."

While the repudiation of Common Core standards by tea party-backed politicians like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Gov. Rick Scott — both of whom had previously supported them — may seem like just another example of pandering to their base, it could also be a rare example of politicians astute enough to seize on an issue that crosses party lines.

“The danger here is that you have two kinds of problems going on,” Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that works to close achievement gaps, recently told the New York Times. “One is a tea party problem, which doesn’t have deep roots but does have lots of political muscle behind it, and then you’ve got a bit of anti-test rebellion coming from the left. The question is what’s going to happen if they both get together. That’s the more terrifying prospect.”

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(7) Comments

  1. Bob Valiant
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    Bob Valiant - September 30, 2013 10:48 am
    And then there is the Left/Right Alliance for Education: http://www.lrallianceforeducation.org/p/common-opposition-on-common-core.html
  2. Gretna Green
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    Gretna Green - September 30, 2013 10:04 am
    Partisan politics at the state and federal levels are dangerous for education, culture, society and democracy. Decisions about curriculum belong very close to children--in communities.
    So what is Common Core? It is just a way of packaging the harsh reality that Wisconsin schools and many others across the nation leave many kids illiterate. Common Core is just a goal to teach all kids to read and calculate using basic math skills. The issue is illiteracy and Common Core is a euphemism or fancy PR packaging to promote the idea that teaching all kids to read is a way of "improving education," when, in fact, the teaching of reading is nothing special and is a basic outcome the public has long demanded from schools. Most of the public would be surprised that ineffective teaching methods have come so far, been adopted so far and wide and fail so many kids. All the bells and whistles of Common Core are just smoke to cover the fact that we have lost the ability to teach all kids to read because pedagogy and method have been politicized, even though the science and knowledge of how to teach reading has never been more clear. What is common across the country is that literacy is necessary and reading is the same in Wisconsin as it is Atlanta. What is also common is that many Americans go through our public schools and remain illiterate. Common Core is way of trying to fix that without admitting the problem was self-inflicted. It's purporting to be "new rigor," when it is an admission that a basic goal of education has been lagging. What is taught beyond the early elementary grades should not be nationalized or necessarily common. Beyond the foundation, education and curriculum certainly should not be controlled by politicians on the right or left. Local parents, teachers, community and business leaders can set the bar for their own kids at the other grades. Common Core is a cover story for the fact that the teaching of reading has been politicized and the methods pushed by certain factions in schools are not working. Too many kids are failing. Common Core allows us to frame this as "raising the bar" rather than fixing a problem that holds education back. All of these generations of kids did not need to become illiterate adults. That's a fact. Every kid needs to read proficiently by fourth grade. That's not negotiable. How we define proficiency is not debatable. It needs to be a fungible definition no matter what elementary school a kid attends. Beyond the three Rs in elementary school, there is nothing that needs to be common across the country necessarily except free public schools and well-trained teachers. The drive for commonality beyond basic reading, math and grammar will always be a political fight. It will either swing left or right or fall into the mushy middle that will make schools really boring and unsupportable.
  3. Lynne4300
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    Lynne4300 - September 30, 2013 9:28 am
    Why is the Union Grove school (Admin Barbara Stevenson), denying that Common Core ("Expert 21" book) is being taught to 7th graders?
  4. Apple4Teacher
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    Apple4Teacher - September 30, 2013 6:17 am
    As the beginning of the article states, the fundamental issue of the far left is that they oppose standards. Any standards. Not just these particular standards. They also oppose summative testing. But summative testing is not a result of the Common Core State Standards, it is a result of a federal mandate holding all states accountable for the education of their students. The far left would do better to harness efforts toward a reauthorization of ESEA.
  5. lindawye
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    lindawye - September 30, 2013 2:24 am
    I would like more information about how Common Core is not developmentally appropriate for kids and how it affects critical programs such as music and art. This article is not too bad, but I would like more information. This is NOT about left-wing versus right-wing, but about what is good for kids and teachers and the critical relationships between kids and teachers.
  6. Beingbucky
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    Beingbucky - September 29, 2013 12:27 pm
    "...may seem like just another example of pandering to their base, it could also be a rare example of politicians astute enough to seize on an issue that crosses party lines."

    Sorry, Walker, you are not getting my vote just because your Big Stupid Money backers don't like Common Core. Besides, I just don't see how you can put "Walker" and "astute" in the same sentence.
  7. gdp
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    gdp - September 29, 2013 11:45 am
    Communizing Core is not the way.
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