Common core myths and facts

A key step in successfully implementing the Common Core Standards is making sure your teachers, parents, and other stakeholders understand what the standards are and getting their full support. But more than four years after the standards were released, a number of persistent myths around the Common Core still exist.

In a recent survey, 73% of K-12 leaders said overcoming resistance to the Common Core from parents and others outside their district was a challenge, and 34% said it was a “major” challenge. Many parents, and even some educators, continue to misunderstand important aspects of the standards.

Common Core Myth No. 1: The Common Core Standards are a federal mandate, written and funded by the federal government (“Obamacore”).

The Truth: The federal government played no part in writing the standards and has played only a minor role in funding them.

The standards originated at the state level, developed by governors and state school officials. Discussions began in 2007, before Barack Obama was even a candidate for president, at the annual meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The National Governors Association joined the conversation as well.

Both groups were concerned that states had different expectations for what high school students should know in order to graduate. To address this problem, the governors and state education officials developed a set of common standards with help from business leaders and higher-education officials—but the federal government wasn’t involved.

Adoption of the standards has always been voluntary, and the states that have adopted them are free to change their standards at any time. The standards’ development was funded primarily by the governors and state schools chiefs, with additional support from foundations. What little federal funding applied to the Common Core came after the standards were developed. This has come in two forms:

  • Race to the Top. This is a contest run by the federal government in which states compete for federal money (less than 1 percent of what’s spent on K-12 education overall) to fund local education initiatives. In the 2009 Race to the Top rules, states could earn 40 points (of 485 total available) for developing internationally benchmarked standards and sharing those standards in common with other states. The Common Core standards are never mentioned in Race to the Top, but opponents argue that because federal officials awarded points for developing common standards of any kind, the government was essentially forcing states to adopt the Common Core if they wanted Race to the Top funding.
  • Next Generation Assessments. Two federal grants were given to state consortiums for the development of tests to measure students’ progress toward the Common Core standards: the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). States’ participation in these assessment programs is voluntary, and they are free to develop their own assessment systems as they see fit. Some Common Core states have chosen to do this.

Common Core Myth No. 2: The Common Core Standards tell teachers what to teach and how to teach it, overriding states’ rights by institutionalizing a national curriculum.

The Truth: The standards are not a “curriculum”; they describe the skills students need to learn at each grade level and can be taught using a school’s local curriculum. The Common Core Standards do not determine what books must be read or what learning methods will be used. They don’t tell the teachers what to teach, how to design their lesson plans, or how children should learn the material.

Common Core Myth No. 3: The Common Core Standards include required reading and will eliminate the study of classic literature.

The Truth: Appendix B of the English Language Arts standards gives examples of stories, books, poems, plays, and nonfiction that the standards’ authors found to be of high quality and the right level of complexity for each grade level. But these examples aren’t requirements or even a suggested reading list; teachers are free to choose their own books.

While it’s true that the standards place more emphasis on reading “informational texts” than many schools have used in the past, that isn’t meant to replace classic literature—and classics such as Shakespeare are still cited in the standards.

Common Core Myth No. 4: The Common Core standards usher in data mining of children.

The Truth: The standards do not add new data requirements for states, nor do they have any data mining requirements. States maintain their current data collection requirements. “There are no data requirements in the Common Core,” Kate Dando, a spokeswoman for the Council of Chief State School Officers, told the Associated Press.

Common Core Myth No. 5: Existing state standards are more rigorous than the Common Core Standards.

The Truth: The Common Core Standards are more rigorous than the vast majority of state standards in the U.S. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute conducted a study comparing the rigor of previous state standards to the Common Core and found that the Common Core Standards were superior to the standards of 39 states for math and 37 states for English. In 33 states, the standards were superior in both categories, and states with more rigorous standards are free to drop the Common Core. The Common Core standards are similar to the Massachusetts standards, a state that has led national achievement over a 10-year period.

For more information about the Common Core Standards and how you can dispel persistent Common Core myths, check out the eBook on the Common Core from School Improvement Network. It contains plenty of useful information to help you inform parents, teachers, and other stakeholders about the standards.



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