Mention the name Common Core, and you’ll receive two completely different reactions. One group praises the set of nationwide educational standards recently implemented by nearly every state in the U.S. Another group says the “standards” are really a way to turn education into a business and the standards are really a curriculum.

Common Core got its start in 2009 when the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) gave money to Achieve Inc., to write a set of nationwide standards for English Language Arts and Math.

The standards were published in June of 2010 and the Alabama Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards, but called them the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.

The standards for math were implemented in the 2012 school year and the English Language Arts standards were just implemented in the 2013 school year.

Proponents of Common Core say the standards make sure every student is being taught at the same level all over the U.S.

State Superintendent of Education Thomas R. Bice issued a release to address concerns the federal government was controlling state schools and in it, he argues the Common Core standards are for the betterment of Alabama children.

“The standards are a common sense first step toward ensuring our children obtain the best possible education no matter where they live. With clear academic expectations for each grade level, teachers, parents, and students can work together toward shared goals. Furthermore, the standards draw from the best existing standards in the country and are benchmarked to top performing nations around the world, ensuring that our students are well prepared to compete not only with their peers here at home, but also with students around the world, maintaining America’s competitive edge,” he said. “With consistent standards, states can also now opt to pool their collective expertise and resources in order to reduce costs for each individual state and bring the most well-informed, creative thinking to various efforts around the standards.”

The math standards place more emphasis on understanding the concepts and not just the technical method, Bice said.

“The standards stress not only procedural skills, but also conceptual understanding to make sure students are learning and absorbing the critical information they need to succeed at higher levels — rather than the current practices by which many students learn enough to get by on the next test, but forget it shortly thereafter, only to review it again the following year,” he said.

The math process for the K-5 standards provide detailed guidance to teachers on how to navigate their way through topics such as fractions, negative numbers and geometry. This is done by maintaining a continuous progression from one grade to the next.

The K-5 foundation should allow for students to do hands-on learning in geometry, algebra and probability and statistics, once they reach the middle school level. The goal, Bice said, is for students who have completed grade 7 and mastered its content and skills will be prepared for algebra in grade 8.

The English Language Arts standards have more complexity than in years past by requiring harder reading material and more emphasis on writing.
“Through reading a diverse array of classic and contemporary literature as well as challenging informational texts in a range of subjects, students are expected to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives. Because the standards are building blocks for successful classrooms – but recognize that teachers, school districts, and states need to decide on appropriate curriculum – they intentionally do not offer a required reading list,” Bice said. “Instead, they offer numerous sample texts to help teachers prepare for the school year and allow parents and students to know what to expect at the beginning of the year.”

Opinion based writing will also begin in earlier grades.

Opponents of the standards say the Common Core standards are really just a ruse to open the education system up to big business, and it was created not by states, but by the federal government.

There was also a question of if the Common Core standards would affect private and parochial schools. However, on Nov. 16 the state›s school board repealed an earlier agreement that issued the standards for the entire state. Instead, the school board said now Alabama educators would be in charge of Alabama education. 

Opponent Elaine Little was one of the speakers at the Eagle Forum of Alabama meeting on Nov. 21 at the West Regional Mobile Public Library. Eagle Forum is a conservative interest group primarily focused on social issues and calls itself “pro-family.”

“Regardless of what (the state DOE) says, this is a federal government program. There was little input from the state. Of the hundreds of the standards, Alabama only had 26 changes,” Little said. “This is about business. This hasn’t been tested at all.”

Eagle Forum has likened Common Core to “Obamacare, which would have never passed Congress without the bribes of federal dollars to certain states.”
One proponent of the Common Core standards is Mobile County Public School Superintendent Martha Peek.

We’ve been supporters of Common Core,” she said. “It raises the standards, and puts us on national footing.”

Peek said she supports Common Core because it is challenging students and preparing them for the workforce.

“My staff would not be behind it if I thought anything we were doing would have a negative impact on our students, and it’s not,” she said. “It’s preparing our students for the world.”