Anne Hyslop at the New America Foundation has pointed out the new partisan tone of debate that has emerged around the Common Core Standards. Hyslop makes clear that the Common Core state initiative is just that—a state led initiative. While the Obama Administration has indeed supported Common Core and has tied its Race to the Top Grant money to college- and career-ready standards in states, Hyslop believes this is hardly enough to justify right-wing attacks on Common Core.
While many of the attacks have come from the usual suspects of conservative media, some of the critiques have come from more publicly recognized sources. The Republican National Committee recently adopted an anti-Common Core resolution, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia) is calling for the federal government to eliminate all Department of Education funding that supports or prioritizes the Common Core.
Hyslop does not buy these arguments; however, she does admit that a possible upcoming law might add more credence to conservative arguments against Common Core:
The problem may be about to get worse. As noted in our Key Questions on the Obama Administration’s 2014 Education Budget Request, federal funding for the assessment consortia is set to expire before the tests are fully launched. To provide continued support, President Obama’s latest budget includes a $9 million competitive grant initiative that could finance some of their ongoing work. The other $380 million of the “Assessing Achievement” program would provide states with formula grants for their current assessment programs, although leftover funds could go toward Common Core implementation.
However, a significant change would occur in fiscal year 2015: Assessing Achievement formula funding would be available “only to States that have adopted college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of States” (emphasis added). While Race to the Top included a similar requirement, that program was a competition, where states could opt-out. NCLB waivers also require states to adopt college- and career-ready standards, but they do not have to be common ones. The Assessing Achievement program would mark the first time federal formula funding – typically available to all states – required adoption of common standards. If enacted, this requirement will undoubtedly add fuel to the “Obamacore” fire.
The important difference between the practical (those… who are concerned about successful Common Core implementation) and political (conservatives who see Common Core as a big-government move) critiques is that states deciding to use the ACT system are not necessarily backing away from their commitment to the Common Core altogether. Yes, the assessment consortia should do as much as possible to allay the concerns of wavering states. And yes, policymakers and stakeholders should closely monitor all of the emerging for-profit and non-profit ventures to ensure their assessments, curricula, textbooks, and other resources accurately reflect the new standards. But in the end, any damage done to the Common Core from these pragmatic objections to the consortia is far less severe than what would happen in the unlikely, but not out of the question, case that “Obamacore” goes mainstream. Common Core supporters would do well to distinguish between the two.
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