2016’s Presidential Candidates and the Common Core

Since the Common Core State Standard Initiative — more commonly known simply as Common Core — was first started in 2010, it has been a contentious topic for many people, from parents to politicians.

The Common Core sets specific academic standards in mathematics and English for students to meet in each grade, with the goal of bringing parity to education throughout the U.S. It has been at least partially adopted by 42 states, Washington D.C. and several U.S. Territories, according to the official CCSS website.

But while there have been many supporters of Common Core, including the Obama Administration, others have opposed the new standards for taking curriculum control away from local administrators and teachers and instead focusing on what they view as the wrong aspects of education.

Common Complaints

Critics of Common Core have pointed to a number of features of the program as problematic, ranging from large ideological, political issues about how education should be governed to the specific way school subjects should be taught.

As The Washington Post reported, one area of opposition is the nature of Common Core and what people view as the federal government and the Obama administration imposing new education standards on communities. More generally, some teachers and school administrators oppose a federal authority prescribing what they should be required to teach and exactly how to teach it. However, defenders of Common Core argue that nobody has required states to participate.

The specific teaching methods used have also been a major point of contention. The way that math is taught in Common Core, which varies significantly from traditional teachings, has been called too “complicated” by some, according to the Post. The lesser focus on fiction in English has also drawn disapproval. In addition, some teachers who have been vocal opponents of the Common Core are particularly against the idea of tying their success as educators to the standards’ test results.

In fact, The Federalist, with an article critical of the Common Core, argues that it has been a major failure. Students have performed more poorly in the Common Core states than in ones that did not adopt the system, many states have stopped using the tax payer-funded Common Core tests, and students simply aren’t learning as well as they could be, The Federalist contends.

Presidential Candidates and Common Core

But it isn’t just parents, teachers and students who have been weighing in on Common Core and its effectiveness. The five remaining presidential candidates have expressed their own opinions on education reform.

Democratic frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamented the fact that Common Core had become so politicized during a question and answer session with Iowa educators in April 2015, The Washington Post reported.

In answering a question from a high school teacher and a supporter of the Common Core, Clinton said that she supported the idea behind the Common Core of improving education by establishing standards without endorsing specific aspects of Common Core.

Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has not strictly taken a side on the issue of Common Core, according to his campaign website. But Sanders has been an outspoken advocate for teachers’ issues and education reform, particularly with regards to higher education. The only action he has taken regarding this reform is voting against anti-Common Core legislation in Congress.

Among Republican candidates for president, the attitude toward Common Core is mostly critical. Delegate leader Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said they oppose the standards, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich explained his state has adopted some parts of the system, according to their comments in the March 10 CNN debate.

In the debate, Trump was critical of Common Core for being imposed on states by the federal government. He advocated for education to be put in the control of local governments. However, the Washington Post noted several inaccuracies in Trump’s Common Core statements at the debate.

Cruz explained that he would have the Department of Education eliminate Common Core on his “first days as president” during the debate. He argued that the Obama Administration improperly used education funding to impose the standard system on states. However, the Post argued that because Common Core is state adopted, a president would not be able to “end” the program as Cruz said he would, without new legislation. Also, the idea that the federal government coerced states through funding is contentious.

In the March 10 debate, Kasich explained how his state has a limited use of the Common Core. Ohio’s state school board adopted the Common Core standards, but left the development of the actual classroom curriculum to the local school boards.

Potential Issues of Common Core Criticism

Criticism of Common Core is widespread, but it may be presenting more trouble for educational improvement than it’s solving, according to a recent research from the Brown Center and Brookings Institution.

The research involved analyzing math and reading test scores from students in the fourth and eighth grade taken by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Students in states that adopted Common Core, as well as those that didn’t, all experienced declines in scores, just at differing degrees. Although the non-adopters experienced the least decline in scores, it isn’t necessarily due to Common Core adoption.

“None of the states are setting the world on fire,” the report concluded. “Whatever is depressing NAEP scores appears to be more general than the impact of one set of standards or another.” The research also noted that it will take more time and data to analyze whether Common Core is truly effective or not.

Looking at previous educational reforms, such as New Math in the 1960s, the success of the program can be noticeably impacted by the conversation surrounding it. The support and use of educational reform can wane as criticism and educator frustration grows.

“Policy elites rally around a new policy, advocates trumpet the benefits that will occur, a public relations campaign is launched to garner support, and local educators respond enthusiastically to the new reforms,” the report explains. “New Math started with a bang, but as criticism grew and teachers’ support dissipated, the materials fell out of use.”

1 Comment

  1. Savanna Haddock

    May 24, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I find this blog entry interesting because I haven’t really looked into the educational outlooks of the new presidential candidates. I, for one, like and support the Common Core. Although it is different from what we were taught in Elementary school, and much more difficult, I believe that the Common Core sets standards so that each and every student has a chance to reach those standards and will be able, one day, to overcome many different obstacles. I believe that there is a point of Common Core, and that it is fitting into our school curriculum perfectly. The only part that I do not agree with that the Common Core has initiated is more standardized testing. I believe that more standardized testing is what is causing students to fail and think they are not good enough and what is causing teachers to look bad. Whether or not our next President upholds the Common Core standards, I will definitely use them as guidelines and ideas to help my students get the best education possible.