The New York Times Defends Common Core

By Catherine Gewertz — April 22, 2013 2 min read
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More and more, we’re seeing general-interest newspapers weigh in on the Common Core State Standards. There have been an increasing number of news stories about how the standards are making their way into classrooms. There have been opinion pieces by advocates and opponents. And there have been editorials, in which the paper declares its position on an issue. Now, The New York Times has weighed in, and it’s put itself squarely in the advocates’ camp.

In an editorial in Sunday’s editions, The Times’ editorial board said New York state “deserves enormous credit” for being on the leading edge in carrying out “what is clearly the most important education reform in the country’s history.”

The paper waded into the common-core debate as students in its home state took new, common-core-aligned tests for the first time. There has been more than a little controversy about those tests, and accompanying voluntary curriculum the state has developed to support instruction on the standards, as we’ve reported to you. The Times noted that some parents are “outraged” by the tests, but it said they shouldn’t be. New York’s new tests, it said, are “an essential part” of common-standards reforms.

New York education department officials could have been “more aggressive” in reaching the public and educators with the preparatory resources for—and messages around—the common core, The Times said. But the paper made clear that even with that proviso, it heartily supports the standards, at the state and national levels.

The editorial board sought to deflate criticism that the standards dictate curriculum. “The Common Core standards do not call for a specific curriculum, reading list, or anything like that,” it said. “Rather, they lay out an ambitious set of goals for the math, reading, and writing skills that children should acquire as they move through school.”

Improving teaching and instructional materials to meet the new standards will be challenging, and criticism from conservative voices in the political sphere adds another layer of difficulty to implementation, the newspaper said.

The paper mentioned only the challenges that have come from political conservatives, but some opposition has emanated from other places on the policy spectrum as well. Some educators see the standards as developmentally inappropriate for the youngest children, for instance. Others view them as impossibly rigorous, not rigorous enough, or too focused on skills at the expense of content. There are a growing number of voices, too, that oppose the standards as part of what they view as an ill-conceived test-driven approach to education.

But The Times editorial board clearly decided that the potential benefits of the standards outweigh the drawbacks. “If the country retreats from the common-core reforms,” it said, “it will be surrendering the field to competitors that have already left it behind in math and science education, which are essential to participation in the 21st-century work force.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.