Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Support for Common Core flags nationwide, as Louisiana's Jindal stokes policy chaos

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 2:50 PM

click to enlarge SLIPPING: Common Core is in trouble in many places. - THE 2014 EDNEXT SURVEY
  • The 2014 EdNext Survey
  • SLIPPING: Common Core is in trouble in many places.
There's disturbing news for supporters of Common Core state standards from a survey published today by the journal Education Next. The study shows that support for Common Core among the general public has slipped somewhat over the past year, from 65 percent to 53 percent. (It's my professional guess that Louis C.K. alone is responsible for at least two of those percentage points.) Some of this is probably an issue of a "tainted brand,"  notes the survey — remove the phrase "Common Core" from the survey question and public support for tougher, cross-state standards rebounds. The graph at right is courtesy of EdNext.

But it's among educators that the really startling decline in opinion has occurred. In 2013, 76 percent of teachers surveyed thought the standards were a good thing; in 2014, that number is down to 46 percent. The percentage explicitly opposed to Common Core has increased from 12 to 40 over the past year.

The national fight over Common Core has created major rifts in two very different political communities. The first is among teachers' groups, many of which are becoming more and more discontent with the new, tougher standards out of concerns that they will penalize teachers, schools and students unfairly and place ever greater emphasis on high-stakes testing. Often, those concerns are more about implementation than the standards themselves, but the big teacher unions have certainly lost their enthusiasm for the Core.

And then there's the GOP. The EdNext survey shows that 16 percent of Republicans surveyed opposed the standards in 2013, whereas now 37 percent do. 

The New York Times reports on the standoff over Common Core in Louisiana, which pits Republican Governor Bobby Jindal against his own handpicked state superintendent of education (a role equivalent to the Director of the Arkansas Department of Education) and a majority of the state's legislature. Jindal announced earlier this summer that Louisiana will withdraw from Common Core and revert back to its old, state-specific academic standards. John White, the Louisiana state superintendent, says that decision is not within the governor's authority. Two lawsuits have been filed on separate sides of the issue in district court.

Jindal once wholeheartedly supported Common Core but has done a 180 over the past year because of loud opposition to the standards from Tea Party quarters. (We can rest assured that Bobby Jindal isn't particularly influenced by the opinions of teachers' unions.) The issue has driven a substantial wedge between those in the school reform movement — including groups like the Walton Family Foundation, which is a champion of Common Core — and conservative activists who see shades of "1984" in any federally motivated initiative to influence the content of K-12 education. 

Jindal has ambitions for his party's Presidential nomination 2016. He's decisively abandoned the establishment of the GOP on this issue to better curry favor with its rightward wing. NYT:

Business leaders have also criticized the governor for reversing course on the Common Core, which does not prescribe a particular curriculum, textbooks or other academic materials.

“We can’t fathom his reasoning,” said Michael Olivier, chief executive of the Committee of 100 for Economic Development, a business round-table group in Louisiana that supports the standards. “This is obviously a positioning so that the Tea Partyers who are opposite of the Common Core would favor him with some consideration for the presidency.”

A spokesman for Mr. Jindal, Mike Reed, said the governor “took aggressive action to ensure that educational choice and local control of curriculum are not taken away from parents and educators."

Meanwhile, the school year is starting, and Louisiana teachers and parents have no idea what standard will be used to test their kids come springtime. I've worked in Louisiana public schools, briefly, A few weeks ago I spoke to my old boss, a principal at an open-enrollment charter in Uptown New Orleans. The year's curriculum is stranded in limbo because of the political impasse, she said.

At this point, several states that had originally signed onto the standards have either withdrawn from Common Core or are threatening to do so. Over in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed a bill from the state legislature to repeal Common Core standards in that state. As a consequence, Oklahoma may no longer fall under a waiver that allowed it extra latitude in its use of federal education dollars. Give us full local control but keep the federal money flowing, please.

Events to the south and west should have Arkansas educators concerned. Common Core bubbled up on the state policy agenda last summer, but despite plenty of grassroots activism from Tea Party-ish parents, the legislature didn't mess with the standards then. As of right now, Arkansas is firmly within the Common Core camp. But an election is coming, and right wing opposition to the standards is passionate, to put it politely. Add growing unhappiness among teachers to the mix, and the future looks a lot less certain.

Support for education reporting provided by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

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