Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

United against the Common Core?

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

United against the Common Core?

Article excerpt

US state standards falter as opposition mounts on all sides

It was supposed to standardise what US children were taught in schools across all 50 states, but the Common Core is now at risk of unravelling altogether.

On Monday last week, Indiana became the first state to formally abandon the education benchmarks, despite being one of the first to adopt the measures back in 2010. For many opponents, the decision sounded the death knell for the programme, which was intended to spell out what students should know and by what age.

In essence, the Common Core State Standards, as they are officially known, are America's first tentative steps towards something similar to England's national curriculum.

Until last week, 45 states were committed to using the standards. Then Indiana, which had complained that they allowed for "minimal input" from local educators, voted to implement its own curriculum that was not overtly "nationalised".

This decision is merely the tip of a very large iceberg, with around a dozen further states considering dropping the standards or considerably watering them down. Meanwhile, opposition groups are finding traction in states spanning from New York to Washington and Alabama to Wyoming.

On Tuesday last week, the day after the Indiana vote, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teaching unions in the country, warned that the Common Core "may actually fail".

Speaking to New York magazine Salon, Ms Weingarten said the implementation of the Common Core had been "worse than...Obamacare", in reference to the US president's highly controversial health-care reforms. "Between austerity and the lack of thoughtful implementation, you see that the Common Core may actually fail," she added, "because it's been implemented so badly in so many places, and because of the opposition from the Right and the opposition to testing."

According to Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor at the University of London's Institute of Education, who sat on the Common Core validation panel, the problem is that the programme's detractors come from across the spectrum.

"On one side you have the right wing, effectively Confederates who still can't come to terms [with the fact that] they lost the civil war and see the standards as being pushed by the feds in [Washington] DC," Professor Wiliam told TES. …

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