Jelani Guzman, a fifth-grader at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., works on an English language arts lesson at school Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.
Steve Ruark/AP Photo

‘Rebranding’ Common Core

Updated
Every year for a long while, in advance of the State of the Union address, a quiet-but-aggressive lobbying campaign unfolds in Washington. Cabinet officials, lawmakers, agency heads, lobbyists, NGOs, and businesses go to great lengths to urge the White House to include their issue in the president’s national address.
 
In D.C., Politico noted, even the most passing reference of a pet project is “like hitting the lottery.”
 
There are occasional exceptions.
[N]ot everybody wants Obama to notice them. Advocates for Common Core standards – which guide math and language arts instruction from kindergarten through high school – would rather the president take a pass.
 
Common Core was developed by associations of state officials and nonprofit groups. But once Obama embraced it and had given states financial and policy incentives to adopt it, it immediately sparked a backlash. States including Indiana, South Carolina and Missouri are considering pulling out of the standards.
 
“It’s imperative that the president not say anything about the Common Core State Standards,” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute…. “If he cares more about the success of this initiative than credit-taking, he will skip over it.”
The debate over Common Core does not fall strictly along partisan or ideological lines – there are Democrats who’ve criticized the standards and Republicans who’ve praised them – but the most heated concerns have been raised by conservative activists, who’ve incorporated Common Core into a larger conspiracy theory. Right Wing Watch noted that Glenn Beck called the education standards the “biggest story in American history” because, as he sees it, the policy is a plot to turn school children into cogs under a police state. 
 
As such, for Common Core supporters, it’s important that Obama not mention his support for the policy because it would only make matters worse – Republicans who reflectively oppose everything the president supports are more inclined to reject Common Core, even if they’d otherwise support it.
 
In fact, in some areas, Republicans who like the idea are moving towards rebranding.
 
No, seriously. The Washington Post ran this fascinating report today:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) used an executive order to strip the name “Common Core” from the state’s new math and reading standards for public schools. In the Hawkeye State, the same standards are now called “The Iowa Core.” And in Florida, lawmakers want to delete “Common Core” from official documents and replace it with the cheerier-sounding “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.”
 
In the face of growing opposition to the Common Core State Standards – a set of K-12 educational guidelines adopted by most of the country – officials in a handful of states are worried that the brand is already tainted. They’re keeping the standards but slapping on fresh names they hope will have greater public appeal.
 
At a recent meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of the organizations that helped create the standards, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) urged state education leaders to ditch the “Common Core” name, noting that it had become “toxic.”
 
“Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,” said Huckabee, now the host of a Fox News talk show and a supporter of the standards.
For the record, I’m something of an agnostic when it comes to the policy merits of Common Core. That said, I nevertheless find it fascinating to see what some officials must do to accommodate the politics of paranoia.
 

Education Policy

'Rebranding' Common Core

Updated