Two organizations that strongly oppose the Common Core State Standards for education have graded the 2016 Republican presidential candidates on their efforts to combat the standards. In a report card released Wednesday, two presidential candidates received failing grades, while only two candidates received grades of an "A minus."
The Pulse 2016, a project run by American Principles in Action and Cornerstone Policy Research, have evaluated 15 of the GOP candidates on how they have responded to concerns about Common Core raised by parents and teachers throughout the country.
As the federal government has incentivized the Common Core set of standards by requiring states to adopt the standards in order to receive some of the $4.35 billion in "Race to the Top" education funding, many parents, local school officials and education experts have argued that the Common Core standards are inferior and takes control over curriculum decisions away from local school boards and administrators, and into the hands of centralized bureaucracies and large companies.
Wednesday's report card grades each candidate on three different criteria dealing with Common Core, such as advocacy for ending the Common Core system, advocacy for state and local educational decision making, and advocacy for the protection of child and family privacy.
"As the Common Core gathered speed, parents and policymakers started to realize the significance of the attendant policy and academic changes. They started to push back against those changes," the report states. "Within a few years, the pushback became a national movement."
The two highest scoring GOP candidates were Sen. Rand Paul, R-K.y., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who both received grades of "A minus." The report states that both Paul and Cruz are the only two senatorial presidential candidates that voted for Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's bill in 2013 to defund Common Core.
Cruz and Paul are also the only two candidates who co-signed a letter written by Grassley to the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee that urged for a prohibition on using federal funds to promote Common Core and ending the federal government's involvement in the Common Core testing consortium.
Cruz proposed an amendment in July that provided for state-determined assessment and accountability systems. However, that bill only received 40 votes and did not pass.
"On the stump, Cruz has consistently called for the repeal of the Common Core Standards and for the return of educational control to the state and to the local level," the report states.
Paul was praised in the report as having paid more attention to Common Core than most other candidates. Paul introduced an amendment to recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing, however, that bill did not receive a vote. The report calls on Paul to become a more prominent "champion" of student privacy and propose bills to protect states and citizens.
"In a fundraising email entitled, 'Rotten to the core,' Paul condemned the Common Core Standards as 'anti-American propaganda, revisionist history that ignores the faith of our Founders and data-tracking of students from kindergarten on,'" the report explains. "The email further called out Bush, Huckabee, Walker and Christie as 'prominent backers' of the standards."
Voters who like Common Core will want to look at the bottom grades to find the candidates whose views more closely align with their own.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were the only two candidates that received an "F" on their Common Core report cards. Both Bush and Kasich were labeled as being "unapologetic cheerleaders" for Common Core.
In May of 2014, Kasich told a Cleveland radio program that Common Core standards were "written by local school districts."
"Governor Kasich continues to be an ardent proponent of the Common Core standards — one who hook, line, and sinker accepts the false talking points of Common Core developers, owners and funders," the report reads. "Kasich's record in Ohio shows that as governor he has done more to violate the privacy of students than protect it."
The report calls Bush the "most outspoken supporter of the Common Core Standards in the 2016," and explains that he has labeled Common Core as standards that "are merely learning goals of high quality."
"He has turned a blind eye to the reasons underlying opposition to Common Core and instead used straw-man arguments to dismiss opponents as relying on 'Alice-in-Wonderland Logic,'" the report says of Bush. "Bush uses the phrase 'high standards' to paint a false picture of the Common Core standards, and he has stated that he thinks the standards should be the 'new minimum in the classrooms.'"
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been outspoken in his opposition to Common Core after he initially backed the standards, was the only candidate to receive a grade of "B plus" while three other candidates — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.— each received a "B."
"Like many governors, Gov. Bobby Jindal was initially in favor of the Common Core Standards. However, more recently, Jindal has made the repeal of the Standards a key issue," the report explains. "Jindal has gone on the record with his assertion that 'the federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative.' Back in February, Jindal released a 42-page plan on education … In it, Jindal raises the quality of the Common Core, something that most presidential candidates assiduously avoid."
While billionaire businessman Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson received grades of "B minus," former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina received a "C plus."
The report states that although Fiorina is speaking out against Common Core now, she previously praised Race to the Top funding during her Senate bid in 2010.
"I don't think Common Core is a good idea. I don't support it, by the way," Fiorina was quoted as saying. "I think the facts are clear, the bigger the Department of Education becomes, the worse our public education becomes."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee both received a "C" on their report cards.
As for the Southern Baptist pastor and former Fox News host, Huckabee, like Jindal, once supported Common Core but argues that the standards have been transformed into a "frankenstandard that nobody can support."
"However, as recently as 2013, Mike Huckabee told the Council of Chief State School Officers to 'rebrand [Common Core], refocus it, but don't retreat,'" the report claims.
The report card handed "D plus" grades to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"[Walker] has not fought the issue with vigor and has thus paved the way for the status quo," the report adds. "Stop Common Core Wisconsin has issued a letter, signed by 58 activists, criticizing the governor's actions and his failure to provide true leadership on the issue."
Christie is criticized in the report for supporting the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments while pledging to get rid of Common Core in New Jersey.