I’m starting this post by declaring that I’m no educator and have never pretended to be. I have absolutely zero training in K-12 education. I did spend the last three years working in education policy matters in Governor Beebe’s administration, but not once during that three years did I pretend to him or anyone else that I know a thing about modern pedagogy. I’m a adjunct professor at the law school here, but that’s different. I’m smart enough to know that teaching law students is not the same as teaching elementary students. Knowing a thing or two about education law is not the same as knowing what really goes on in a classroom.
I preface this post with this because I’m sure that some of you are going to think that I have no idea what I’m talking about, and you may be right. If that’s the case, please enlighten me, but I cannot even begin to understand what the current controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards is about. Tea Party groups across the country have chosen defeating the Common Core as their next cause. They argue that the Common Core is a federal takeover of education, a function that has historically been left to the states. That’s fair if true, but it’s not. The Common Core State Standards Initiative was actually lead by governors (both Republican and Democrat) and state education commissioners, through their respective national organizations: the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Every state had a chance to participate, yet none were forced to do so. It was state education leaders from across the nation that were involved in the development of the standards, not the federal government, and states made their own decision as to whether or not to adopt the standards.
As of today, 45 states and the District of Columbia have decided to adopt the standards and fully implement them by 2014. However, because of Tea Party resistance, several states have recently decided to put the program on hold. President Obama’s administration supports the Common Core (which I think is the main reason for Tea Party opposition), but this is a bi-partisan initiative with strong support from leaders within the Republican party. Former Republican Governor of Florida Jeb Bush is a strong supporter of the Common Core, and his Foundation for Excellence in Education has a page on their website that does a nice job of comparing some common misconceptions about the Common Core with the truth.
Yesterday and today, our own House and Senate Education Committees have been meeting to discuss implementation of the Common Core in Arkansas. We’re one of the 45 states who plan to have the standards fully in place by 2014. The standards aren’t perfect (I’ve heard so from educators; I’m not making this statement based on my own experience), but they are rigorous, and they give every student a chance, regardless of the state, county, or town that they live in to receive an education that prepares them for college or whatever path they choose. They’re not perfect, but they’re a start, and after all of the work that has been put into development and implementation, now is not the time to back out.