While thousands of schools across the country continue their transition to the Common Core State Standards, opposition has been mounting as parents and teachers express frustration with a lack of time and resources. Many state legislative bodies are also pushing bills to delay or drop the standards altogether, as Indiana has already done.
Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education, and Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, spoke in a U.S.News STEM Solutions Conference panel discussion moderated by U.S. News Editor and Chief Content Officer Brian Kelly, to discuss the political backlash growing in many states, and how the implementation of Common Core will play out moving forward.
While both panelists acknowledged there have been challenges stemming from the growing opposition in many states, they also said they're confident that the standards will move forward and prove beneficial to students and teachers. Still, both emphasized a need to more actively engage with those who oppose the standards and more directly address their concerns.
Key points of the discussion came out of audience questions, ranging from whether delaying assessments will negatively affect students to how Common Core implementation could have an influence on how quickly -- or slowly -- states choose to adopt the affiliated Next Generation Science Standards.
- Despite the fact that several states -- including Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah -- have dropped out of either one of the Common Core testing consortia, Minnich said he thinks most states will end up using either the PARCC or SBAC assessments, especially after data is available for analysis across states.
- The labeling of Common Core is "absolutely an issue," Minnich said, and supporters need to better engage with opponents to address their serious concerns, such providing more time and resources for teachers, and evaluating how the standards transition from grade to grade. As for the perceived federal involvement in Common Core? "Whether or not the [federal government] wrote standards is not a serious concern," Minnich said. "They didn’t."
- The standards in and of themselves promote a national equity agenda, Chester said. Students who move between states won't have to answer to 50 different sets of expectations, if more states use Common Core, he pointed out. Additionally, Common Core could help expand equity in terms of better preparing high school graduates. In Massachusetts, Chester said, 37 percent of high school graduates enroll in remedial college courses. At two-year colleges, the proportion is about two-thirds of students, he said.
- Dropping the Common Core standards (Indiana has already done so and Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee are mulling the idea) could have negative consequences for students for two reasons, Minnich noted. For one, all of the states bordering Indiana are using Common Core. That could prove difficult if students move across state lines, Minnich said. Additionally, Minnich pointed out that it will be challenging for education leaders in Indiana -- or any other state that chooses to repeal the standards -- to write high-quality standards in a short amount of time, particularly when there is so much attention focused on the outcome.
- Finally, Chester said a very important part of the Common Core roll out revolves around a need to adjust teacher preparation programs to ensure that "when people leave those programs, they're ready to teach." Massachusetts, he said, is also examining alternative teacher preparation routes -- such as teacher residency programs -- that give new teachers more time to work in classrooms before leading one on their own.