Analysis: 3 Common Core Myths

Where did the Common Core State Standards Initiative come from? What is the debate over Common Core really about? Some of the media coverage of these issues may lead to some misimpressions about the Common Core. Here are three common Common Core myths:

Myth #1: Common Core was "State Led"

Imagine that you and 49 friends, each from a different state, got together and started your own program. Would that be a "state led" program simply because each person is from a different state? That is what Common Core proponents mean when they say Common Core is "state led."

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The Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association. While its title sounds like a government organization, it is not. The NGA is private. Sure, there were "representatives" from many states in the development of the Common Core. But, these "representatives" were not representing the citizens of their state, at least in any democratic sense of the word "representation."

State legislative bodies, the real representatives of the people of a state, were not involved in the development of the Common Core. This is one of the reasons there has been a pushback against Common Core in some state legislatures.

Even when states first adopted Common Core, state legislatures were left out of the process in favor of state education departments. The Obama administration, under the leadership of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, encouraged (critics say "bribed") those departments into adopting the Common Core via Race to the Top.

Race to the Top, passed in the 2009 stimulus bill, was a competition among the states for federal education grants. States had to agree to adopt the Common Core, even before the Common Core standards were known, in order to qualify for the competition.

Myth #2: Common Core is Only Opposed by Conservatives

Media coverage of the debate might give you the impression that the only people opposed to the Common Core are right-wing Tea Party types. While the conservatives are some of the most vocal opponents, both conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, can be found on either side of the Common Core debate.

One of the most outspoken supporters of Common Core has been former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a conservative Republican. This month, his Foundation for Excellence in Education held a conference in which Common Core was promoted. The FEE website even has a page devoted to supporting the Common Core.

Critics of the Common Core, on the other hand, include Democrats and liberals. Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, won election in 2012 as Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction on an anti-Common Core platform. She defeated a Republican incumbent who supported Common Core.

Additionally, in 2010, over 500 early-childhood experts signed a letter saying that the Common Core would be harmful to the development of young children. The signers did not represent any particular political persuasion, and most certainly were not part of any right-wing Tea Party group.

Myth #3: Common Core Opponents Support the Status-Quo

Common Core supporters often reflexively claim that anyone who does not support their education reforms do not support any education reforms.

Critics of Common Core are "comfortable with mediocrity" and they "defend the lower standards that we have across this country," Bush recently claimed.

The critics, though, are not opposed to the Common Core because they like the current education system. As noted in Myth #2, the critics are a diverse lot, so they have many different, and opposing views of how the education system should be changed, but it is not the case that they oppose reform altogether.

For just one example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has led a large scale education reform effort in his state that includes charter schools and school choice programs. He also opposes the Common Core. Jindal has fought his state courts and the U.S. Justice Department to implement his reform ideas. Would Bush say that Jindal is "comfortable with mediocrity"?

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