Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Don't Conservatives Support Common Core?

Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Fordham Institute and Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal, with a spot-on article entitled, The Truth about Common Core -- Why are prominent conservatives criticizing a set of rigorous educational standards?, which supports the CC and rebuts the “false claims circulated by the most vocal critics of Common Core”. Here’s the beginning:

The new Common Core math and reading standards adopted by 45 states have come under a firestorm of criticism from tea-party activists and commentators such as Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin. Beck calls the standards a stealth “leftist indoctrination” plot by the Obama administration. Malkin warns that they will “eliminate American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.” As education scholars at two right-of-center think tanks, we feel compelled to set the record straight.
Here’s what the Common Core State Standards do: They simply delineate what children should know at each grade level and describe the skills that they must acquire to stay on course toward college or career readiness. They are not a curriculum; it’s up to school districts to choose curricula that comply with the standards. The Fordham Institute has carefully examined Common Core and compared it with existing state standards: It found that for most states, Common Core is a great improvement with regard to rigor and cohesiveness.

For decades, students in different states have been taught different material at different rates and held to radically different standards. Several years ago, a small group of governors joined together in an effort to align their states’ standards and assessments. This group expanded through the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. In 2007, curriculum experts began to devise the new Common Core standards. Drafts were circulated among the states, comments received, and the standards adjusted. So far, 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed up to implement these new expectations.
Now let’s address the false claims circulated by the most vocal critics of Common Core…

And here’s the conclusion:

The Common Core standards are not a panacea; much depends on the curricula that states and districts select to implement them. Some critics suggest that we are enshrining mediocre standards for eternity. But the Common Core standards are a floor, not a ceiling. Students can still be accelerated and offered supplemental learning, the standards can be improved over time, and states are free to devise something better.

Common Core offers American students the opportunity for a far more rigorous, content-rich, cohesive K–12 education than most of them have had. Conservatives used to be in favor of holding students to high standards and an academic curriculum based on great works of Western civilization and the American republic. Aren’t they still?

Here’s RiShawn Biddle along the same lines with a column entitled, Conservative Reformers Must Challenge Movement Conservatives on Opposing Common Core. It begins:

One of the biggest challenges facing Common Core supporters — especially conservative reformers who helped develop the standards in the first place — lies in the opposition from movement conservatives who should be the first to embrace providing all children with strong, college-preparatory curricula. Thanks in part to the efforts of otherwise-thoughtful folks such as Hoover Institution scholar Williamson Evers, Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute, and University of Arkansas’ Jay P. Greene, movement conservatives have been whipped up into a frenzy of almost-fanatical opposition to the standards, sometimes to the point of spouting conspiracy theories that they themselves would find laughable when progressives do the same thing when it comes to anything involving the role of billionaire natural resources players David and Charles Koch in Wisconsin politics. Yet conservative reformers have silently stood by as their fellow-travelers engage in even more-fanciful thinking. It is time for conservative reformers to step up their defense of the standards, and strongly challenge the faulty thinking of movement conservatives who don’t think about either their underlying reasons for opposing standards or the consequences of their opposition on the other reforms they fully support.

And concludes:

It is time for conservative reformers to have strong, forceful arguments with movement conservative allies about the senselessness of their opposition to Common Core standards. This includes pointing out the reality that what passes for curricula in American public education today doesn’t work for anyone’s children, including their own. It also includes refuting arguments and conspiracy theories that movement conservative offer as evidence against the standards — and demanding that they stop embracing the kind of shoddy thinking that no respectable movement conservative icon — especially Kirk and Reagan — would even find acceptable in a conversation. It doesn’t mean that movement conservatives opposed to the standards will be less reflexive in their opposition; after all, there are reasonable qualms that can be had about the efficacy of common curricula standards. But it would force them to actually argue against the standards based on some semblance of the facts and their interpretation of conservative first principles.

Certainly conservative reformers challenging movement conservative thinking may be akin to ideological civil war. But given the conservative movement’s other problems (including, as Washington Examiner columnist Noemie Emery notes, a sense of entitlement and embrace of a victim mentality unfitting of itself), the importance of the movement playing a strong role in shaping systemic reform, and the need for the movement to update how it applies first principles to today’s issues, it is a much-needed fight that conservative reformers can win.

 Subscribe in a reader