Don’t Trust the Right-Wing or Left-Wing Attacks

Common Core state education standards face a constant onslaught of attacks from the far left and the far right. It’s no wonder that the words “Common Core” have taken on a negative connotation.

Jeb Bush supports Common Core, but he won’t use that phraseology on the campaign trail. The Washington Post took note in an editorial Tuesday that Jeb Bush responded to a question about Common Core at the Iowa State Fair last week by saying: “The term ‘Common Core’ is so darned poisonous, I don’t even know what it means.” But Bush says he does favor “…higher standards, state-created, locally implemented, where the federal government has no role in the creation of standards, content or curriculum.”

Bush is describing Common Core.

The Iowa audience was approving of Bush’s response. This makes sense. In June, InsideSources worked with Maslansky + Partners, a language strategy firm, and found that voters like Bush’s call for higher standards that are locally implemented.

The challenge, though, is that voters love the policy idea, but ideologues on the left and right have poisoned the use of “Common Core.”

Efforts on the right have largely failed. Facts stand in the way of the heated rhetoric. The Post explains:

Common Core is not a federal takeover of education. States developed the standards, accepted them voluntarily and implement them with local flexibility. The federal government merely encouraged states to adopt them, as it should have. The standards also aren’t some conspiracy to force children to learn about climate change and evolution; they cover basics in language arts and math.

Despite efforts by some politicians to defund or repeal higher state standards, Common Core is still largely in place across the country. The problem for the opposition is that parents want high standards for their children. It is virtually impossible to rewrite high reading and math standards that are not Common Core.

The next wave of opposition is now set to come from the left. Teachers unions are averse to testing, which will demonstrate whether their members are able to educate children and prepare them to enter higher education and the workforce. The Post details the liberal backlash:

Liberal opposition to Common Core, meanwhile, is proving at least as harmful. Teachers unions have resisted the accountability that consistent and meaningful testing might bring, and they have used their own form of Common Core sabotage: Along with misguided anti-test activists, they have encouraged parents to refuse to let their children take exams meant to assess how well students are meeting Common Core expectations. They have succeeded in undermining educational standards in New York: Parents pulled an astonishing 20 percent of students grades 3 through 8 out of the tests last school year, upsetting efforts to track student progress.

Testing, however, is essential. There is no other way to determine whether schools are providing the education that children deserve. And the new tests for Common Core will be an opportunity to see whether one state’s schools are providing an adequate level of education relative to another state.

Politicians have routinely gamed this process in the past in order to make their state’s schools look better than they really are. That’s helpful to a politician’s career, but it harms the students who aren’t able to compete in the job market with those who grew up in states with higher standards.

Advocates like the National Parent Teacher Association want parents to be prepared for the shock that may come this fall when test scores drop. This is an opportunity to reset the inflated scores intended to distort the truth about student preparedness.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, National PTA Deputy Executive Director Elizabeth Rorick explained:

We see that the bar has been set too low for our kids, keeping them from reaching their full potential. If we want students to achieve more, we need to expect more. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have growing pains. Many parents are going to be very surprised that the test scores coming out this fall are going to be lower. It’s important that parents understand that the first year of testing is really setting that baseline. It’s going to give parents and teachers an understanding of where students are meeting expectations and where they need to improve. We’re excited about the new score reports. They’re going to provide states more opportunities than they’ve had in the past. They give parents and teachers a real breakdown by key learning areas, and it’s very important because it will give parents and teachers a chance to work together to focus on the areas that need improving for our kids, build on their success, and pay attention to some of the weak areas.

InsideSources pressed speakers on the call about why the new tests were better. North Dakota State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler explained: “We’re not only measuring what students know, we’re measuring what they can do with what they know, which is what that 21st Century world is really asking of them.”

The lower test scores will likely ignite a new round of angry rhetoric from opponents of Common Core. But for those wanting to raise standards and hold states, schools, and teachers accountable, experts believe testing is the only way to achieve that goal.