by Tyler Arnold
Common Core took a hit in New Hampshire this month.
Although the state adopted the Common Core standards, Republican Governor Chris Sununu signed Senate Bill 44 into law, which “prohibits the department of education and the state board of education” from requiring schools to implement Common Core. The bill will go into effect September 16.
Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut also said he plans an informal review of the Common Core standards, despite the state Board of Education voting against a formal review. Edelblut campaigned against Common Core in his unsuccessful run for governor last year.
Common Core is a set of education standards developed under the auspices of the National Governor’s Association to encourage uniform standards across state lines. It received flack from opponents who say the standards don’t help students and that local schools should be more autonomous.
“Common core is really a complete redesign of public education,” Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action, told The National Pulse. Cornerstone Action is a New-Hampshire-based nonprofit that supports limited government.
Many parents complain about Common Core math, Banfield said. They complain about the addition/subtraction, as well as the multiplication/division, because the standards use methods that dive into abstract concepts about mathematics, instead of allowing students to simply solve the math problems. Many parents, including some with a background in mathematics, have voiced frustration over being unable to help their first and second graders with math homework.
The English standards have also been criticized for substituting literature with informational texts. Schools are asked to split time equally between the two, while literature used to be the focus.
“[English] teachers were not trained in the teaching of these non-literary texts and were very frustrated by losing so many canonical works,” Valerie Strauss wrote for The Washington Post.
Banfield argued that this will bore students and fail to keep them engaged. It also disregards the importance of literature, she said.
The standards have defenders, however.
James Goodman, a high school math teacher, argued in Salon that most criticisms are from people who do not understand Common Core math, or from parents whose children have teachers who don’t understand how to apply it.
The methods that often look complicated, he said, help students better understand arithmetic, which will help them understand higher levels of mathematics in the future.
In a Brookings’ Center for Technology and Innovation report, Joshua Bleiberg and Darrell West argued “Common Core was superior to state standards for 39 states in math and 37 states in English. For 33 states the standards are superior to both.”
However, their argument seems to admit that at least some schools will be decreasing their standards if they conform to Common Core. And not all education experts are similarly convinced of the standards’ superiority.
Regardless of whether some aspects of Common Core help some students, a national standard wouldn’t allow for needed adjustments for schools or classrooms. Any unsuccessful aspects harm the whole country. If local school boards make their own policies, schools can learn from each other what works and what doesn’t — and adjust accordingly. National standards, however, universalize the bad along with the good.
Banfield is not optimistic that President Donald Trump or Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will defend local schools.
Although DeVos said she opposes Common Core, she was affiliated with multiple organizations that supported it.
“Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position,” she wrote on her website.
Apart from that, she inaccurately stated that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) did away with Common Core. DeVos even said ESSA “encourages states to set forth their own levels of achievement expectation.”
However, as The Daily Caller reported, ESSA requires states to submit plans to the Department of Education for approval if they challenge the general standards (i.e. Common Core), meaning more federal control.
Although New Hampshire took a step against Common Core, it doesn’t seem like the fight against national standards are over.
It’s “full steam ahead” for federal control under Trump, Banfield said.