States regroup from Common Core backlash

by Laura Edghill
Posted 2/12/14, 05:20 pm

Several states appear to be asking “What’s in a name?” with regard to the national Common Core standards for reading and math in public schools.

In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order stripping the name “Common Core” from the controversial standards. Florida lawmakers have dropped the name and replaced it with “Florida Standards.” In Iowa, some of the standards are now referred to as “The Iowa Core.”

A groundswell of criticism in 2013 forced many states to re-evaluate their stance on the Common Core, adopted in recent years by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Some states such as Utah, Alabama, and Pennsylvania, withdrew completely from the consortium. Others, including Michigan and North Carolina, are actively considering that step.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has advocated for the Common Core as well as the rebranding process.

“Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,” Huckabee told The Washington Post.

Originally developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core standards were presented to states as a comprehensive and unified set of benchmarks for math and reading. Because they were standardized, states could be confident that their students would be measured on exactly the same skills as students in other states. The standards were set with the goal of assuring college and career-readiness for high school graduates.

Initial enthusiasm was high, but in 2013 President Barack Obama endorsed the standards and tied attractive “Race to the Top” funding and “No Child Left Behind” waivers to states’ adoption of the standards. Critics cried foul as what had once seemed like a state-generated, state-controlled reform now smacked of federal overreach. Some states that had been on aggressive implementation schedules backed off or changed course entirely.

Many states are keeping their commitments but either renaming the standards, revising them, or both.

“The proposed standards are truly our own,” Florida Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen said during a workshop on the new standards.

The recent rebranding efforts of states like Florida demonstrate the current conflict. If states want to retain the federal benefits linked to Common Core adoption, they need to proceed with implementation. If states want to maintain control over their own standards and keep the benefits, they need to find a way to do it by exercising their option to add to the Common Core standards. They can also choose to reject the federal program and stick to their own standards.

“Here’s what we’re going to ensure: These are Florida standards,” Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott told a gathering of state GOP officials this month. “They’re not some national standards; they’re going to be Florida standards. This is our state. We’re not going to have the federal government telling us how to do our education system.”

Laura Edghill

Laura Edghill is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

Read more from this writer