Education Opinion

Common-Core Overreaction

By Walt Gardner — April 21, 2014 1 min read
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The educational standards that are intended to raise proficiency in English and math have become the third rail for public officials supporting them (“Republicans See Political Wedge in Common Core,” The New York Times, Apr. 20). I knew from the start that the Common Core would be politicized, but I hoped reason would eventually prevail.

Instead, no benefits whatsoever are acknowledged by opponents, who are intent on using the Common Core in the service of their own agendas. The result is strange bedfellows. I’m referring now to leaders of teachers’ unions on the left and politicians on the right. Who speaks for students?

I realize my view that students can be the beneficiary of the Common Core is considered heresy. But I fail to understand what is so dangerous about setting minimal standards in English and math (as well as other subjects). When I taught English, I welcomed guidelines about what students were expected to learn at the end of my courses. They helped me plan my lessons. I could - and did - go beyond the minimal requirements. But in that era teachers were allowed to design their own tests to determine if they were successful. Things are different today because teachers are being increasingly evaluated by the performance of their students on standardized tests created by testing companies.

That’s why I wonder if teachers’ unions would be as adamant in their opposition to the Common Core if the standardized tests were used strictly for diagnostic purposes and the results were never made public. Finland uses this approach quite effectively. I also wonder if politicians on the far right would feel better if they realized that the Common Core does not mean the abolishment of local control.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.