Trouble for the Common Core

The weekend saw yet another setback for the Common Core, new college and career-focused education standards adopted by most states. The board of the New York state teachers union has voted to withdraw support from the standards – at least as they’ve been implemented so far. It’s the latest in the drip, drip of bad news for the rollout.

When New York tested its students on the Common Core last year, more than two-thirds of them failed. Teachers say they didn’t have enough time to really teach the new math and English standards, and don’t want to be judged on the results until they’ve had that time. On Saturday New York State United Teachers' leadership voted “no confidence” in state education commissioner John King, and called for a three year moratorium on “high-stakes consequences from standardized testing.”

“This is a really big transition, and instead of actually doing it thoughtfully and preparing teachers, and preparing parents, and adjusting, revising, John King has put his foot on the accelerator of testing,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

With its 600,000 members, she says New York is the AFT’s largest state affiliate.

The vote is yet another setback for the Common Core. Teachers and parents don’t like the emphasis on testing. Conservatives don’t like the Obama Administration’s role in promoting the standards.

“What it is is another sign, [a] wakeup call, that we need to be really thoughtful about the implementation of the Common Core, and that we need to hear, very seriously, what the field is saying,” says Sonja Brookins Santelises with the Education Trust, which supports the standards.

Most states have put off new testing to give teachers more time to adjust, says Michael Petrilli with the conservative Fordham Institute. He also supports the standards, and says many teachers do too.

“The political threat on the right is much more serious,” Petrilli says. “There are many, many states, conservative states, where there are bills that have been introduced to pull the state out of the Common Core.”

“It’s going to be a big fight,” Petrilli says – one he hopes President Obama will stay out of in his State of the Union Address tomorrow night.

“He’s mentioned it two years running,” Petrilli says, “and it hasn’t helped.”

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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