Across the nation, parents, teachers and children are objecting to the educational reform of the Common Core, creating a trend of opting out and raising serious questions about its future.
The Common Core is a set of ambitious standards, the knowledge and skills that students will need to master by the end of a given school year, said Jonathan Supovitz, professor of leadership and public policy and co-director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
The goal of Common Core is for students to master what they will need to know so they will be able to attend college without taking any remedial classes, said Mindy Kornhaber, associate professor of education in educational theory and policy at Penn State College of Education.
A brief history
Adopted in 2010, Common Core peaked initially with 46 out of 50 states jumping on board but went downhill after that. Early adopter Indiana along with South Carolina and Oklahoma repealed the standards in 2014 and replaced them with a new ones, Supovitz said.
Only 32 percent of public school students live in states that are using the federally funded tests (called PARCC or Smarter Balanced) statewide, a drop from 46 percent a year ago, according to Education Week.
In spring 2015, when the first Common Core “tests were applied, opting out was a big phenomenon. There was a big outpouring of parents who chose to withhold their children” from testing, he said.
Why people opt out
The trend of opting out was triggered by a combination of reasons, both educators said.
First, many people think education should be a local issue, Supovitz said. They feel that the government is strong-arming local school districts into adopting national educational standards.
It became a political issue with people on both the right and left finding fault. The Right felt it was government overreach, while the Left felt wary of the foundations and private people that were contributing to public policy without any oversight, Kornhaber said.
“The Common Core has turned into a political hot potato,” Supovitz said. “It became a proxy issue for people who were opposed to educational reform.”
Others objected to the testing itself. Common Core’s “high-stakes testing” is testing with consequence, Kornhaber said, and some people object to having their teachers evaluated this way. If too many students opt out, a school’s state report card could go down, and it might not be eligible for federal grant money.
“Testing is the linchpin of this entire system,” Kornhaber said.
Others find fault with the technology. When the first tests were administered in 2015, many school districts had infrastructure problems.
“There was not enough bandwidth to give all students the tests,” Kornhaber said. Plus there are “technical equity issues,” Supovitz said. Poorer school districts may not have the technology available to them and some children may not have regular access to the technology at home, he said.
Additionally, the “test materials were rolled out too quickly, and teachers didn’t have good professional development,” Kornhaber said. “Teachers were required to start teaching things that they would be judged on before they were ready to.”
Some states are balking at the cost associated with administering standardized testing.
“Billions were spent on No Child Left Behind, but we saw minimal educational gains,” Kornhaber said.
“The opt-out movement was a wake-up call,” said Supovitz. “It’s clearly a signal that the system has prioritized testing too much. We have to reposition testing. It has value but we need to recalibrate and find its appropriate role.”
“Whether Common Core could have done better, I don’t think we’ll ever know because the system was never really implemented they way it was supposed to be,” Kornhaber said. “Common Core hasn’t been wiped out, but it’s severely injured.”Wiped out? What's next for the Common Core: