To the Editor:
Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights defends the Common Core State Standards in his Commentary “Low Standards Do a Disservice to All” (Feb 4, 2015). He says critics are mounting a political “assault" on the common core.
Of course, Henderson’s defense of the common core is strictly political. He is angry at Republicans who shun the common core, including state superintendents in Arizona and Georgia, as well as Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. He praises “Republican partisans" who support the common core, notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
However, Henderson ignores bipartisan criticism of the common core. The standards are a product of relentless and deceptive marketing. They address only two subjects. They allow little, if any, flexibility in their use. They distract attention from high expectations for learning in the sciences, arts, and humanities.
Henderson speaks of “low-income black, Latino, and American Indian kids” who are “taught in substandard facilities by underqualified teachers using old textbooks and outdated technology." He imagines that policymakers can fix these conditions by making financial and pedagogical investments in the common core.
Wishful thinking will not overcome hard facts. This year, 51 percent of public K-12 students live in poverty. In 2014-15, at least 30 states provided less funding per student than they did before the 2008 recession. The price tag of K-12 education has increased since 2008, due to rising costs of supplies and tests, the need for more wraparound social services, dubious investments in technology, and more—but not teacher pay. On average within the United States, the salary for teachers decreased by 1.3 percent between 1999-2000 and 2012-13, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The common core will not fix communities where entrenched poverty and segregated schools are accepted as inevitable. The common core will not fix state budgets for education. The common core is deeply flawed; it is a triumph of spin over substance, and a pathetic expression of educational aims for a great nation.
Laura H. Chapman
The author is an independent scholar and consultant.
A version of this article appeared in the March 04, 2015 edition of Education Week as Common Core: ‘A Triumph Of Spin Over Substance’