Common Core is controversial because it will change what we expect from our school system, and because it comes with the added discomfort of being a national standard. For years, parent organizations stressed the importance of decentralization and community control, and now Common Core is a nod in the opposite direction.
To make matters worse, the roll out of this policy is confusing and now it’s a political hot potato. (What is with this federal government and bad rollouts, by the way?)
Common Core standards may not be a terrible idea, but it probably needs more time to be set up. The policy has critics on both sides of the political aisle, both nationally and locally. Since Common Core is not a federal mandate (it is optional), maybe it should be tried with one subject (let’s say mathematics) in schools where principals agree to participate.
Math is the easiest subject in which to test skills and progress. History being left up to a federal standard, however, is different. That could get political real fast. Mathematics, however, might fit an approach such as this.
By testing the policy, we would see how well Common Core works before it becomes more wide-spread. Participation in this program allows states federal funding, so the temptation is big, but it should test driven on a limited basis. If it is a good idea, it will prove itself.
There are some major issues with a plan like Common Core. For one, what if it fails miserably? Who gets the blame in that case? This is a plan to give education policy a national identity, so it’s normal to expect discomfort from states. State education systems pride themselves on their own innovative ideas.
Common Core may not be a bad idea, but it should be tried on a limited basis on subjects that can be somewhat streamlined, like math and science. That would not get a state those attractive federal dollars, but it might be a wiser approach. Some of the outcry is that the new curriculum is too involved or too difficult. Well, that is supposed to happen. School is supposed to be difficult.
Raising education standards is never a bad idea. To bridle at a new idea because it comes from a liberal or conservative place is a giant mistake. We give these ideas a political label, and we make any reform attempts impossible. This is what has held back school choice options.
The old way does not work, at least in many places. One reason to look at a federal standard is that students learn in more of a bubble than ever before. For example, they listen to the same music, read the same news, and follow the same issues as students all across the country, thanks to the internet and cable television.
Their lives have gotten more homogenized, and maybe a national educational standard (on select subjects in certain schools) is worth a look.