Obama’s signature education initiative, the Common Core curriculum, may be in serious trouble. The New York Times reports that the Tea Party and a number of left-leaning parents have become unlikely allies in the fight against the rollout of the initiative, although they oppose it for slightly different reasons. For the Tea Party, the Common Core is a textbook case of federal intrusion and overreach. The parents, on the other hand, are worried that the standardized tests accompanying the curriculum are too difficult (or that teachers are ill prepared to train students to pass them). Although this hasn’t yet coalesced into a solid opposition movement, some of the measure’s supporters are concerned that it could:
New York State, an early adopter of the new standards, released results from reading and math exams showing that less than a third of students passed.
“I am worried that the Common Core is in jeopardy because of this,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “The shock value that has happened has been so traumatic in New York that you have a lot of people all throughout the state saying, ‘Why are you experimenting on my kids?’”…
“The danger here is that you have two kinds of problems going on,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that works to close achievement gaps. “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.”
In our view, both of these arguments demonstrate the key problem with most federal education reform efforts. Like many of its predecessors, the Common Core attempts to impose a national, one-size fits all standard on a massive, heterogenous country. Despite the best efforts of reformers in Washington to understand what goes on in the thousands of classrooms across the country, local principles and teachers have a much better idea of where their students stand and what they need to succeed.
Rather than moving toward a model in which standards are developed at the national level and handed down to individual school systems, we would prefer a model that grants teachers more authority and responsibility to make decisions about curricula and teaching methods. Ideally, this would be paired with a voucher system that allows parents to hold the teachers accountable for the decisions they make.
[Classroom image courtesy of Shutterstock]