If you have children in North Carolina public schools, you may have heard of the Common Core, which is “an ambitious set of goals for the math, reading and writing skills that children should acquire as they move through school.” It’s goals, not curricula. So, for example, the Common Core says by the end of 6th grade, a student should be able to “write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.” Whether a student learns this skill through a semester-long group project on Bulgarian culture or while defending her preference for One Dimension over The Wanted is up to her teacher, her school, her district and her state.
Recently, attacks against the Common Core have mounted throughout the country, thanks in large part to growing attention on right-wing talk radio. Some critics say it’s an effort by the federal government to undermine local control of education. Supporters counter that it was state governors who initiated the creation of the Common Core in an effort to help American students catch up with those in other countries.
Some critics argue that having national standards will make it easier for the government to collect data on students, while supporters point out that data and standards are necessary for accountability.
While Tea Party conservatives are rallying against the Common Core, many Republicans support it. The president and vice president (who worked in the Reagan and Bush II administrations, respectively) of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think-tank, laid out six conservative arguments for supporting the Common Core: fiscal responsibility, accountability, school choice, competitiveness, innovation, and traditional education values.
Here in North Carolina, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest – who has a seat on the State Board of Education by virtue of his position – says he has major concerns with the Common Core. One of them is cost, which is a pretty valid concern, given the cuts to school budgets, the increases in class sizes, and the reduction in teacher assistants and other resources. How do we expect teachers to help students reach these ambitious educational goals without the necessary support?