What ever happened to Common Core?
It used to be the education sector’s most emotional subject. Now it’s not a topic of discussion anywhere. So when Massachusetts recently introduced a bill that would repeal the state’s Common Core standards, we asked, “but isn’t Common Core dead?”
The burdensome, nationally standardized curriculum known as Common Core was first introduced under the Obama administration in 2009. Allegedly based on high-quality academic standards, the program promised that all children, regardless of where they lived, would be fully prepared for college and life after high school.
In reality, the Common Core turned out to be a one-size-fits-all, inferior education system that has resulted in abysmal results.
Fueled by Federal Funding
When it was first introduced, the Common Core met immediate pushback from parents and educators alike. But with federal funding dangled in front of them, 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted the standards despite the opposition.
Once an emotionally charged topic that had parents rallying in state capitals and calling their school boards, Common Core has now seemingly slipped out of the public education conversation, leading many to think it’s a dead issue. Numerous outlets have reported that states have been abandoning the Common Core in droves.
Supporters have bemoaned that states just didn’t give Common Core enough time to see results. But are we really free of Common Core?
As far as how the standards are taught in schools, it depends on what state you’re talking about. Of the 45 states that adopted the standards, 24 have repealed them, revised them, or edited parts of them. The four states that have entirely withdrawn from the standards are Arizona, Oklahoma, Indiana, and South Carolina.
However, the conversation isn’t as simple as whether or not a state has repealed the standards.
Some states, like Oklahoma, truly have tossed aside Common Core in favor of bare minimum state standards. Others states, like Missouri, replaced Common Core with standards better suited to their students’ needs. A proposed bill in Massachusetts would repeal the Common Core and put the pre-2010 state standards back into effect.
But for most states, repealing or revising Common Core is far more nuanced.
Places like Maryland have rolled back Common Core’s testing requirements, which mandated that schools clear their schedules for several weeks each spring, while leaving the standards in place.
In other states, repealing Common Core has meant renaming curriculum and simply tweaking the standards to be slightly more palatable to detractors while still in line with the original standards.
For example, Kentucky, the first state to adopt Common Core in 2010, repealed the standards in 2017 only to adopt similar ones under the name “Kentucky Academic Standards.” For the most part, the controversial standards are still in place, but under a less polarizing and recognizable name.
However, the trend is clearly towards increased state autonomy and away from Washington-imposed standards. Though some states’ standards remain as onerous as the original Common Core, this shift is an encouraging one.
But the classroom curriculum isn’t the only objectionable part of Common Core. After all, if it were, HSLDA may not have gotten involved in the fight against it; what happens in the public schools doesn’t usually directly affect homeschoolers.
One of HSLDA’s objections to the Common Core was the possibility that colleges would align their admission requirements with the standards; any student who did not participate in a Common Core-aligned program would not be prepared for the test. But a positive result of states taking back control of their education standards is that colleges have, for the most part, not done that. If colleges were to adopt Common Core standards now, they would be shutting out not just homeschool students, but public school students from states that have moved away from the standards.
One fear has become reality, however, and with no sign of changing. At the time of Common Core’s proposal, it was announced that standardized tests such as the SAT and PSAT would be rewritten to align with the new standards. The new tests were rolled out in 2016; regardless of their state’s standards, students nationwide planning on taking a College Board-run test must be prepared to answer Common Core-friendly questions.
So though many states are moving to unhitch themselves from the Common Core, once a federal initiative gets its tentacles into something, it’s very difficult to undo. The behemoth is likely to live on, in one form or another, in the America education system for years to come.
A possible silver lining is that this experiment taught some what homeschool families already know: no child is the same. A cookie-cutter education system, whether devised by the feds or the states, will never work for every student.