Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How the GOP Turned on Common Core

How the GOP Turned on Common Core:

How the GOP Turned on Common Core


Chris Christie was for it before he was against it. So, for that matter, was Mike Huckabee. When the Common Core education standards were introduced in 2009 by the governors and school superintendents of 46 states, most of the would-be Republican nominees for president were for this voluntary approach to kids’ education. In 2013, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal lauded the program, but a little over a year later, he was comparing it to Stalinism: “Let’s face it: Centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system, and it won’t work in education.”
Christie’s flip-flop was equally acrobatic. “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey, and we are going to continue,” he thundered in 2013. By 2015, he was thundering against Common Core. “We need to take [education] out of the cubicles of Washington, D.C., where it was placed by the Obama administration, and return it to the neighborhoods of New Jersey.”
How did eliminating Common Core, a rather benign set of voluntary goals and best practices for teaching K-12 students, become one of the biggest applause lines in the Republican presidential race? (Only Jeb Bush and John Kasich are standing by the idea.) “It’s mystifying to me why there are individuals so entrenched in fighting this fight when you consider all the problems this country has,” says Dane Linn, vice president of the Business Roundtable, chuckling in exasperation. “How did Common Core become the whipping child?”
His group, which represents CEOs of the nation’s largest corporations, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and education reformers, has been pushing for years for something that would lift educational standards, putting them on par with high-achieving nations around the world. Now that they have that something, the pro-business party is denouncing it.
To understand how this happened, you need to know that Common Core was in part a reaction to the oft-criticized No Child Left Behind Act, the 2001 law that poured vast new federal resources into education and demanded that school districts meet performance thresholds or face sanctions. Even though No Child Left Behind passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support—the late Senator Ted Kennedy championed the George W. Bush proposal—it soon drew enemies from all sides, including teachers who found it meddlesome, parents who tired of the endless emphasis on testing and politicians, left and right.
Common Core was meant to be different. First, these standards weren’t some burdensome federal mandate. The states collaborated on new benchmarks—third-graders should be able to work with fractions, for example—and they were meant to promote best practices for how to teach English and math.
The business community, and business-minded nonprofits, loved it. They had been fretting for decades about American education. The American Federation of Teachers gave it qualified support. The result? School districts are adopting the standards, and they appear to be working. Test scores are up slightly, and up slightly more in states that embraced Common Core enthusiastically.
Opponents of Common Core like to say opposition to the law arose organically, from parents frustrated by ever-proliferating homework assignments. The truth is that the stunningly swift reversal by Republican politicians didn’t happen by accident. It was the result of an organized effort by Tea Party-affiliated groups anxious to make a mark after a series of legislative losses. Although the Tea Party had struck fear in the GOP establishment with the landslide elections of 2010, it had little to show for it despite antics like the government shutdown. The debt limit was raised again. Spending continued to rise. Obamacare was never repealed.
With Common Core, Tea Partiers spotted a chance to rebrand their image, from the tightfisted guardians of budgetary matters to the protectors of kids. FreedomWorks, the Heritage Institute, the American Principles Project, the Heartland Institute and a whole network of conservative advocacy groups and think tanks began alerting their members through emails, conference calls, emails and local organizing to oppose Common Core.How the GOP Turned on Common Core:

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