What’s the truth about Common Core?

Published 10:26 am Thursday, January 15, 2015

Listen to some politicians and Common Core State Standards are nothing but creeping communism, while others say it’s a beacon of hope that will bring the next generation to greater intellectual heights.

Common Core has become one of those points that is so politicized, dense and boring that that the average person has given up trying to understand it. Typically, such status is reserved for things like the debt ceiling, immigration reform or NSA spying.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton introduced a bill this week to repeal the standards, and earlier this month, Gov. Phil Bryant said from the steps of the state Capitol that he wanted to “erase the chalkboard” of Common Core.

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“I think there’s a general feeling of concern,” Gunn said, “over Common Core and exactly what it does and what it is.”

In that point, at least, Gunn is right.

The Council of Chief State School Officers describes the system as a “consistent, strong, clear benchmarks for English language arts and math.”

Common Core has been adopted in all but seven states and Puerto Rico. It’s also used on American military bases, but I can’t find a consistent, strong or clear answer about it anywhere.

Even the political wranglers whose platforms hinge on it aren’t sure despite the Washington Post declaring the education plan “might be the most important issue in the 2016 Republican presidential race.”

In researching Common Core, I found a definite split on both sides of the political aisle. On one conservative website, I found the “Top 10 Reasons To Oppose Common Core,” while on another I discovered an eloquently written essay on why Common Core is the greatest thing for students since the invention of the calculator.

Liberals can’t make up their minds either. Some stand with Common Core as a consistent step-by-step approach to education while others are voicing concerns that the standards take a one-size-fits-all approach that puts too much emphasis on standardized testing and undermines teachers.

It also appears that teacher support for the program is waning. In 2013, 76 percent of teachers supported common core, but in 2014, support dropped to 46 percent, according to Education Next, a journal that monitors education trends across the county. Those who opposed common core made up 12 percent of a 2013 poll, while the number jumped to 40 percent in 2014.

I found no study that showed student opinion of Common Core, presumably because most have little experience to compare the new standards to. Yet, they are the most important part in the complicated equation.

It’s their future the pundits and politicians are debating and shaping, and I’m sure if given a voice, they would say, “Please stop fighting.”

Josh Edwards is a reporter and can be reached by email at josh.edwards@vicksburgpost.com or by phone at 601-636-4545.