An Examination of Common Core

An Examination of Common Core

Note: This post was written by one of our bloggers and is not the opinion of School Outfitters as a whole.

Despite being nearly five years old, the Common Core standards that have been adopted by 44 states and the District of Columbia still have an air of mystery and doubt surrounding them. While most teachers are now quite familiar with these new standards, split between supporters and opponents, controversy and a lack of understanding still pervades the public-at-large. With this in mind, NPR has set out to help everyone understand the facts behind Common Core and clear up a multitude of misconceptions and other controversies.

The list of 25 frequently asked questions that about Common Core ranges from the basic (What is the Common Core?) to the complicated (What do the standards mean for math? and What do the standards mean for English?). Perhaps one of the more interesting answers, in light of the political backlash that some states are experiencing, is about the federal government’s role in creating the standards:

This is probably the biggest single source of controversy surrounding the Common Core. The truth is, the federal government played no role in creating the standards, nor did it require that states adopt them. But the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan did incentivize adoption.

In July 2009, the Education Department created Race to the Top, a $3.4 billion grant competition. States that agreed to adopt the Common Core standards won points on their applications, increasing their eligibility for a share of the money. This carrot, with a deadline attached, helped spur a majority of states to adopt the standards within a few months after they were released in July 2010. The federal government also funded the state-led consortia creating the Common Core-aligned tests.

On a personal note, I believe that the backlash towards these standards is sometimes driven not by their content, but by the huge change that they represent. Everyone with a stake in education is naturally concerned about the future of the nation’s schools, so spreading the facts around and creating a healthy debate is the next best step in this process. No one really knows how Common Core will work out, but if there’s criticism to be leveled at it, let’s hope it’s based on merits and not misunderstandings.


For additional insight into the Common Core standards, check out NPR’s recent line of stories that focus on what principals and teachers think about the new standards and USA Today’s story about a recent teacher’s survey reflecting recent views on the standards.