Our Opinion: Investigating Common Core condemnation

“Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance.”

Credited to Albert Einstein

Common Core education standards largely have been condemned by a majority of Republicans in the Missouri Legislature, which approved a bill during the regular session to replace the national benchmarks with state standards.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed the bill Monday. As a result, eight advisory groups will be formed to develop standards to replace Common Core. In the meantime, the Common Core standards adopted in 2010 by the State Missouri Board of Education will remain in effect.

As a rule, we believe state and local oversight of education is preferable to federal oversight. We understand, however, that national education benchmarks have merit, considering the trend toward global competition for educated workers.

Regarding condemnation, we believe Common Core has been mischaracterized as a federal initiative.

It is not. Common Core was launched in 2009 as a joint initiative by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop more rigorous standards for math and English curricula in the schools throughout the nation.

President Obama’s endorsement of Common Core, however, plucked it from being largely unnoticed, despite being implemented in public schools throughout the state and the nation.

Fueled by federalism and partisanship — each can be a blessing or curse, depending on the application — Common Core rocketed from obscurity to controversy. It has been and continues to be attacked by lawmakers in Missouri and other states.

Have Common Core critics investigated the standards?

We confess we have not read them in their entirety. They are voluminous and we are not professional educators qualified to judge their merits.

What we have read, however, does not strike us as objectionable.

Here is a sampling of standards for “Key Ideas and Details” for reading among 11th- and 12th- grade students:

• Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

• Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

• Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

We find nothing in those standards that differs significantly from traditional, accepted reading standards we encountered nearly 50 years ago. Certainly, we find nothing in the new standards that might be construed as federal intrusion or indoctrination.

Missouri government, however, has decided it must create eight advisory boards to devote time, energy and money to a replacement process.

We hope the effort is worthwhile; we suspect the result will not be vastly different — or better.


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