Assessing the Common Core

Why Conservatives Should Get Behind the New Educational Standards Sweeping the Nation

by: Timothy Bame

Among the many reasons that the United States became the most prosperous and most powerful nation in the world by the middle of the 20th Century was our second-to-none education system.In recent decades, however, we have fallen through the rankings to the 17th best education system in the world, according to a Harvard University study. In response to our declining educational accomplishments, the Federal government passed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which allowed each state to set its own academic and assessment standards. Unfortunately, this act failed to sufficiently raise our academic performance.

In response, the Obama administration created the Race to the Top program which used stimulus funds to create competition between the states so they would improve their education standards. In order to better compete for this funding as part of the program, states began adopting the Common Core Curriculum, a new and more rigorous set of standards meant to better match up American students against those from the other developed countries in the world. As of today, 45 of the 50 states have now adopted the Common Core, with the exception of Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Alaska. As it can be imagined, many critics, mostly Conservatives, have come forward with reservations about nationalizing educational standards.

We’ve witnessed an unprecedented rise in the role of the Federal government in areas such as health care, mortgages, and banking. However, an increased role in this particular area may have its own particular advantages. First of all, the decision to adopt these standards is the decision of the states, as 5 states have already refused to adopt these standards. In addition, these standards are meant to help improve the competitiveness of American students compared to other students all over the world.  Finally, they have the support of many public school teachers across the nation (my own mother included).

A major reason that the No Child Left Behind Act failed so badly was that, as mentioned previously, each state created their own assessments, which made it difficult to compare the progress of students between states. Now with common standards between states, they no longer have to develop their own standardized tests and assessments. This will reduce the excessive costs that most states suffer from in a budget crisis. For instance, North Carolina in recent years has had to almost completely eliminate its End of Course and Writing tests due to a lack of funding. Now, those states participating in the Common Core program will be able to cooperate and administer the same tests, greatly reducing the burden on them and allowing a better gauge of how students in each individual state are performing.

Despite these cost-cutting advances, the real question to be answered about this program’s success is, “How will it affect the teachers and students in the classroom?” The Common Core Standards are definitely more intense and more rigorous than the former curriculums in most states. This increased pace will both put greater pressure on students to learn more at a faster rate and make teachers more accountable. With these new standard assessments, the quality of the teaching of each educator can now be judged in an equal and effective way. Some elementary school teachers in Polk County, North Carolina have, consequently, expressed a concern about “growing pains” for themselves and their students because they will have to adapt to a faster-paced and more complex learning system. However, these same teachers also agree that in time, the Common Core will help children learn more of  what they will need to be successful in the 21st Century. In fact, one third grade teacher expressed surprise about how well her students had adapted to the new program, as well as the greater skill levels they were demonstrating.

Besides increasing the amount of information taught to students in a certain amount of time, the Common Core Standards also stresses that students should not only be able to find the answer to a question, but they should be able to understand why they came to their conclusion and argue their findings. The ability to articulate personal views and opinions and to understand the opinions of others, without necessarily agreeing with them, is a useful skill and will prepare students for college and professional life. In fact, that was the entire reason the Common Core Curriculum was adopted in the first place. It is crucial to our economic development for us to have citizens in the future who are prepared to deal with and solve the challenges that now face us in this highly technologically advanced century. .

This last consideration brings us to the important question that we as conservatives face concerning this issue. While we understand that some government is needed to provide basic protections and rights to the people, should we allow these standards, which were endorsed to the states by the Federal government, to be used in educating our children? After all, we are talking about our future leaders, voters, and problem-solvers. The answer to this question should be unequivocally, “Yes.” Not only are the Common Core Standards more effective in teaching students what they know, but they are cost effective because states can share resources such as standardized tests. America, a nation famous for its rich innovative spirit, must ensure that its next generation is prepared to face an uncertain but bright future. That is something that we all can and should get behind.