Common Core Catastrophe?
Published: Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Williamson Evers is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a public policy think tank based at Stanford University in California, and the former U.S. assistant secretary of Education for policy. He spoke to the Trib regarding the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a federal program designed to establish consistent K-12 education standards across the states.
Q: Do you feel that most parents weren’t nearly familiar enough with Common Core and what it means to education in America before the standards were adopted?
A: Yes. The reform of the standards for curriculum content was issued in June 2010, really after school was coming to a close. If states were going to be eligible for federal (education) grants, they had to accept it in two months. This was the summer. Teachers were not in school, parents were not taking their children to school and so it went quickly under the radar.
Q: Do you believe these standards should have been subjected to more rigorous testing or examination before being implemented?
A: I think they should have been, but I really think it’s better to not have a national set of curriculum content standards. It’s better that various states try out their best idea of how to do these things, so maybe Pennsylvania will borrow some ideas from Massachusetts or Indiana, or try some ideas of its own.
(In that way) they will advance a kind of standards set because they have competitive pressure, they are trying to bring businesses and immigrants into their state. That method we have used in the past — the rivalry between the states, (between) local school districts — is quite a bit limited by (Common Core). That’s because avenues of rivalry, like different arrangements of curriculum, orders of certain textbooks, things like that, are lost by having everyone do more or less the same thing. That’s an unfortunate consequence.
Q: What do you believe are the other problems associated with Common Core?
A: Well, it’s a kind of utopian project to align all the classrooms in the country to be doing roughly the same things. Anything like that is just an unimaginably difficult, complex thing.
The standards themselves, the standards are lists of topics that the child is expected to learn in each grade. The standards have some sloppiness problems and they have some, I guess you could call them doctrinal, problems where they are trying to teach a certain kind of progressive education. And that may not work out too well.