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States mull dropping Common Core

More than a dozen states are considering bills to repeal Common Core. Here's why.
A second grader at George Buck Elementary School in Indianapolis, works on writing, March 25, 2014.
A second grader at George Buck Elementary School in Indianapolis, works on writing, March 25, 2014.

More than a dozen states are considering legislation to repeal their involvement in the Common Core State standards, responding to a surge of discontent from an unlikely coalition of conservatives, parents, unions, and teachers.

Last week, Indiana became the first state to repeal the testing standards, which were designed during President Obama's first term to set high and consistent standards for students across the country. The state has chosen to replace the standards with its own set of tests after conservatives complained the Common Core exerted too much federal influence. Critics--like Utah's governor,  a Common Core supporter-- say the repeal say this is just a political gesture and that Indiana's standards are the same.

“In essence, they’re saying they’re creating what’s called the Indiana Core. It’s not the Common Core ... but their standards are almost mirroring exactly what is commonly referred to as the Common Core standards," Utah's Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said. 

In Oklahoma, both chambers of the legislature have voted to repeal Common Core, though a handful of changes by the Senate to the bill may slow the process if the House doesn’t accept them.

These legislative rebukes come as millions of students tried out Common Core tests for the first time. Over the last year, teachers have been implementing the curricula designed to teach to the test, trying out brand new lesson plans nationwide.

More than a dozen bills in twelve states are also seeking to review or pause the implementation of the standards and seven governors have issued executive orders to reexamine, change, or delay the Common Core’s implementation and use, according to Education Week's legislation tracker.

It's a huge jump in legislative activity: the National Conference of State Legislatures estimated the hundred or so bills tackling Common Core this year is an 85% hike in legislation around the issue.

Educators and politicians alike had high hopes for the Common Core, even before it was written. The standards promised to level out the playing field, improve American students’ performance compared to those in other countries, and produce analytical, problem-solving, and communicative students who were good citizens to boot.

But as the Core has been implemented, it’s become one of those rare issues to irk both sides.

On the right, Tea Party conservatives have balked at what they view as an Obama-endorsed federal overhaul, even as establishment Republicans like former Gov. Jeb Bush voice their support for standardized testing and accountability.  On the left, unions and others have increasingly questioned it. 

The flurry of legislation targets various portions of Common Core.

Many question the cost of implementation; the testing is heavily computer-based, requiring schools to purchase additional computers on top of new tests and materials. Some teachers have questioned the plan itself, which they say was written without teacher input while others question whether students and their teachers should be so dependent on tests to measure growth and learning.

Still others dislike the nationalization of standards and education. Then there's the large-scale information collection and data mining the system requires, which has conservatives crying invasion of privacy. Still others, often parents, find the curriculum written to teach to the test profoundly confusing.

Responding to the criticism, Education Secretary Arne Duncan famously quipped that the opposition was from “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

And while many parents oppose it—some even pulled their kids out of school during some early Common Core testing in protest—they're not alone. Teachers unions—much-touted early supporters of Common Core—are increasingly dropping their support from the standards they initially stood behind.

The National Education Association—the nation’s largest teacher’s union called the roll-out of Common Core “completely botched” and said it couldn’t be completed without a massive overhaul. In January, the board of New York state teachers union withdrew support. The American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten—who supported the reform initially—has criticized the roll-out and pushed for better implementation, saying that without it the reforms would fail.