By Morgan Tufarolo

The idea of Common Core standardized testing came to light when former Arizona Governor, Janet Napolitano, was the 2006-07 chair of the National Governors Association (NGA).[1]  Each year the chair of the NGA writes an initiative, and Napolitano’s initiative had a strong emphasis on improving math and science education so as to better the country’s workforce.[2]  This was the foundation of the Common Core State Standards, which Napolitano brought into being through the help of commissioners of education, governors, corporate chief executive officers, and recognized experts in higher education.[3]


The entire goal behind the Common Core State Standards is to “raise student achievement by standardizing what is taught in schools across the United States.”[4]  The idea is to ensure that what students are learning and being tested on in Rhode Island, is the same as what students are learning and being tested on in Florida. The standards are written grade by grade, and determine the reading and math skills that students should achieve as they move from kindergarten on through high school.[5]


Proponents of the Common Core state that is it “not a day-by-day curriculum that dictates teachers’ lessons.”[6]  However, many teachers feel pressure by the standards and are seriously revamping their curriculum to fit the needs of the Common Core. For example, the Common Core demands that by grade 12, 70% of the reading in English classes be informational, nonfiction text, while the remaining 30% can be literary.[7]  This leaves teachers in an undesirable position; students are better able to engage in classroom discussions about texts that they find moving or intriguing (fiction such as The Great Gatsby, or modern American poetry), where as trying to implement class discussion with nonfiction, informational texts leaves students feeling disconnected and much less motivated to be involved in class.[8]  One teacher even noted that both her and her students were struggling, her students were bored and shutting down, and she is seeing more problems in her classroom than she has ever encountered before.[9]


The chief architect of Common Core, David Coleman, however, does not see the validity of these arguments. Coleman states that the teachers misconstrue the standards, explaining that the intention of the standards is to increase the amounts of nonfiction reading across all subjects, including social studies, science, and math, which would allow English teachers to continue to assign literature.[10]  The problem with this argument, of course, is that teachers of social studies, science, and math are all saying, “we have to teach our own subject matter, let the English teachers teach English,” leaving the initial problem of cutting back on literary fiction as real as it was before Coleman attempted to write off the issue.[11]


Since the development of the Common Core, the standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia, sans field tests, which one non-supporter paralleled to the idea of our education and standardized testing system turning into “a nation of guinea pigs”.[12]  Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia have not adopted the standards, refusing to change their English and Math testing.[13]  While the vast majority of states have accepted the standards, many parents, teachers, and students stand out against the standards, arguing that federal policy is not supposed to control state testing.[14]  Proponents contend that this is a misunderstanding, and the standards are not actually mandated by the federal government, and instead the standards are “absolutely state-led.”[15]  Proponents do however concede that since President Obama showed his support of the Common Core through implementation of “Race to the Top,” – an initiative, simply put, aimed at providing money to states who mandate Common Core testing in an attempt to raise test scores and improve education – Common Core has been easily misconstrued as being backed by the federal government.[16]


There are advocates on both sides of the fence, and it seems that the only common ground to be reached is that everyone can agree to disagree. Teachers feel as though their curriculum is being taken out of their own hands, ruining students’ experiences in class, as well as setting them up for failure on standardized tests that are more focused on attempting to get high scores rather than actually teaching students. Students are left to their own devices, the Common Core system refuses to take into consideration whether a students’ school or family life is not as well off as his or her counterpart in another state; it seems to be a one size fits all approach that has been rashly thrust upon unwilling students, teachers, and parents.

[1] Allie Bidwell, The History of Common Core State Standards, U.S. News, (last visited Nov. 14, 2015).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Carolyn Thompson, What are the Common Core State Standards?, Associated Press, (last visited Nov. 14, 2015).

[6] Id.

[7] See Lyndsey Layton, Common Core State Standards in English Spark War over Words, The Washington Post, (last visited No. 14, 2015).

[8] See id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] See id.

[12] Valerie Strauss, Why I Oppose Common Core Standards: Ravitch, The Washington Post, (last visited Nov. 14, 2015).

[13] Common Core State Standards in English Spark War over Words.

[14] Why I Oppose Common Core Standards: Ravitch.

[15] See The History of Common Core State Standards.

[16] See id.

Posted in

Share this post