In 2013, according to National Public Radio, two-thirds of Americans had not heard of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). A year later, 80% knew about CCSSI, and 60% were opposed. The confluence of Big Business and Big Government support for CCSSI has fed growing opposition including parents, teachers, and civil libertarians. While much of the debate concerns the contents of the standards, this paper focuses on the process used to develop CCSSI and the bureaucracy that would operate it. The CCSSI claims to be state-led, internationally benchmarked, and based on the latest research, but it is not. In July 2009, $4.35 billion in federal funding was made available to recession-shocked states through the Race to the Top program. Participating states were required to adopt CCSSI and join one of two approved assessment consortia. In 2010, before the standards had been written, 46 states and Washington, D.C. agreed to join. As of May 2015, only 28 states and Washington, D.C. remain committed. Supporters say CCSSI is state-led and voluntary; critics say federal funding is intimidation and bribery. In addition, opponents are concerned about centralization and the collection of real-time data on students and teachers. Mandatory, copyrighted curriculum, textbooks, lesson plans, and Core-aligned assessments remove teachers from heretofore-key elements of education. To many, the use of cameras and biofeedback devices on students to obtain fine-grained data seems Orwellian. Opponents fear such monitoring of classrooms will transform education from an art into an exercise in industrial-style Taylorism. We can do better.
Craig Sower, Shujitsu University, Japan
Stream: Educational policy
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