WASHINGTON — Heated opposition to Common Core standards has united some left and right-leaning groups but has not led to the creation of viable education policy alternatives, a New America report released on Tuesday says.
As opponents have tied objections to the standards to concerns about testing and local control, no unified message or policy ideas have emerged as a counter to Common Core, the report says. Although media and conservative talk shows have been flooded with anti-Core messages, states that have invested lots of time and money into changing their education systems are unlikely to scrap the standards.
“The longer no alternative vision to the existing common standards emerges, the less likely we are to see a course shift,” the report says.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative, a product of inter-state collaboration among governors and chief state school officers to establish nationwide education standards, has united the dissent of an unlikely coalition—right-wing tea party activists and left-leaning groups such as teachers associations. On one hand, conservative groups are wary of interference from the federal government, which has offered grants for adopting the standards, while teachers’ groups worry about evaluations tied to the standards.
Although the vocal opposition to the Common Core has entered the mainstream as an issue that transcends political affiliation, the report says, it has done little in the way of advancing the debate over education reform.
“When it came to seeking alternatives, the coalition proved to be built on quicksand,” the report says.
Although the report says that states are unlikely to move away entirely from Common Core standards, grassroots opponents are unlikely to drop the debate without a fight, said some education experts on a panel discussing the report at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank.
Issues about local control, over-testing of students and teacher evaluations all have snowballed into criticism of Common Core as a whole, said Derrell Bradford, the executive director of New York Campaign for Achievement Now. Because Common Core touches so many areas of education beyond academic goals, Bradford said people will continue to fight proxy wars on other education issues that matter to them, even if states do not roll back the standards.
““Education reform is emotional reform,” he said. “And you have to approach it in that way if you want it to stick.”
Implementation of the standards did not take into account these legitimate concerns of education policy stakeholders—including teachers, parents and state politicians—said New America Policy Analyst Lindsey Tepe.
“You cannot change standards without understanding that it is going to impact everything else,” she said. “It was naive for reformers to think you could really make a change to standards and not touch on all these other proxy issues.”
The teachers unions cited by the study, such as the American Federation of Teachers, have often criticized Common Core because teachers are not being listened to enough as the debate goes forward, said AFT’s Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, a top aide to the union’s president.
By focusing so heavily on standards and holding teachers accountable for them, she said, the Common Core does not emphasize giving teachers the tools for success in developing better curricula.
“The culture is ultimately what needs to change in schools,” she said.