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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

Join the discussion: Is Common Core just misunderstood?

Compiled by JJ Feinauer, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Aug. 27 10:04 p.m. MDT

 In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., teaches an English language arts lesson.

In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., teaches an English language arts lesson.

(Steve Ruark, File, Associated Press)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is worried that the debate over Common Core — a set of educational standards adopted on a state-by-state level — is causing unneeded contention (particularly within the Republican Party) and doing little to help advance improvement in public education.

"Stop the fight," The Associated Press reported Huckabee as saying during the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "Let's not make this something that we're going to shed blood for no particular value to the students. Put the students first. The programs are less important."

While attempting to calm the flames, Huckabee implied that much of what has been said about Common Core, from motivations to implementation, is built on misunderstanding.

"We want our students to achieve to the highest level they're capable," he said, apparently defending the program. "They can't do that if we dumb down the schools."

Huckabee's comments were given a new context in Utah this week. As the Deseret News' Benjamin Wood reported Monday, a new UtahPolicy.com poll indicates that while many Utahns disapprove of the Common Core standards, few understand what they actually are.

"The UtahPolicy.com poll suggests that many voters continue to be unclear on what exactly the Common Core is and how Utah came to be involved with the standards."

According to the poll, 29 percent of respondents (the highest percentage of respondents) believe the standards were "forced on Utah by the federal government," according to Wood, which isn't actually true.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, or what is more commonly referred to as just Common Core, is a initiative developed primarily by governors and state commissioners of education to create "consistent, real-world learning goals" for public education, according to the initiative's website.

Once the committees of governors and educators decided on a "core" of standards, states could then choose to opt-in to the program. Participation is not federally mandated.

According to Vox, 43 states currently have adopted the standards. Utah's State Office of Education opted in to the program on Aug. 8, 2010 and first implemented it during the 2013-2014 school year.

"These standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach," the Common Core website explains. "Instead, schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards."

Last march, billionaire and educational philanthropist Bill Gates charged that misinformation about the Common Core standards is due to "people who want to stop the standards," a tactic that he thinks could "send us back to what we had before" (which he clearly sees as a bad thing).

According to The Huffington Post, Gates, who has been an active financial backer in the effort to implement the Common Core, thinks the standards exist to do the exact opposite of what the critics suggest.

"Maybe we can't answer every tweet or post, but the authoritative voice on this is teachers" he said.

Still, critical voices — which appear most prominently among conservatives, but still have a place among liberals — see Common Core as representative of a larger corruption of the American educational system.

"This fight transcends partisan bickering," popular conservative media personality Glenn Beck said at what he called "a night of action" rally against the standards last July. "We're talking about the education of our nation's most valuable asset. We are talking about our children, and our children don't care who we voted for."

JJ Feinauer is a Web producer for Moneywise and Opinion on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: jjfeinauer.

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1. play by the rules
SOUTH JORDAN, UT,
Aug. 27, 2014

Look at who profiteers from Common Core, it's big business. Huckabee would not want big business to get in the way of his business aspirations now would he. I think Common Core is one of those issues where those on the left and those on the right can come together and agree that local control is the best answer rather than huge profits to the corporate sponsors.

2. Maudine
SLC, UT,
Aug. 27, 2014

Common Core merely states that by the end of each grade level students should know certain facts and how to do certain math functions.

As far as who profits from Common Core, yes, there are only a handful of companies that provide educational supplies to American schools - but that situation predates Common Core as anyone who has followed the recent text book controversies knows. For all the talk of "local control," local school districts do not write their own textbooks or tests as doing so would be extremely costly, labor intensive, and redundant.

How Common Core is implemented is up to the individual school districts. (And yes, one if the main proponents of Common Core thinks that each state should only have one school district unless they have a really large city, in which case the city should have its own, but nothing on Common Core promotes or creates that situation.)

3. Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah,
Aug. 27, 2014

Common Core is a set of innocuous standards that encourage students to think a little out of the box. I've read the language standards and they seem perfectly good to me.

4. JinaYi87
Norman, OK,
Aug. 27, 2014

Until Common Core was brought to the battlefield by those with strict partisan ties, few people gave one wink to CC. Most people did not even know what was being taught in their schools; and moreover they did not truly care. I have read from the standards and they seem to be quality to me. Too bad Oklahoma got rid of them.

It is a sad fact that in the US most people know next to nothing about a subject, yet listen to vigilantes from the side of their choosing, then vote accordingly. I have heard that the standards are too low from some opponents, then that they are too hard from other opponents. Which is it? Or do you oppose the standards because Glenn Beck says so? The opposition was quoted in the referenced survey article as being that people are misinformed as it allows for cheap and easy recruitment to the anti-Common Core movement. The opposition thrives on misinformation. Do we really want to hop on the bandwagon of misinformation? I support the ideals of Common Core and hope that everyone can actually read the Core, then make a decision.

5. Midvaliean
MIDVALE, UT,
Aug. 27, 2014

Common Core is necessary for a country of our size. We need all our youth to be educated to a certain level. My worry is that the bar will be lowered rather than raised in certain situations.
In addition to our schools, we as parents need to always be diligent in ensuring our children like to learn. You get out of public school what you want. Some people drop out and quit, other attain greatness, yet we all went to the public schools. So we all know that you can get out of school what you put into it. With Common Core adaption this will be no different.
If the level of learning is below your child, you had better be aware of this!