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Even This Post Might Be Too Much Attention on Common Core Debate

The reason I rarely write about Common Core is the same reason why I’m writing about it today. Huh, you say? America’s fourth most influential Edu-Scholar Eric Hanushek makes a persuasive case in U.S. News:

Policymakers and reform advocates alike have rallied around introducing a set of national content standards, suggesting that this will jump-start the stagnating achievement of U.S. students. As history clearly indicates, simply calling for students to know more is not the same as ensuring they will learn more.

Bottom line (read the whole article): Common Core standards are not going to move the needle on the important content and skills U.S. students learn. For every Massachusetts that performs fairly well with high standards, there’s a California that has high standards but struggles tremendously in its educational results.

The insightful and provocative Dr. Jay Greene highlights the Common Core strategy as an example of misguided “Finland du Jour” thinking. In other words, we can’t just translate a policy we like from somewhere that is successful and assume with any confidence that it will work someplace else. Even if CC didn’t cost a lot of money to put in place, the new system of standards might not be merely a benign exchange of educational goals.

Citing a new story about the standards’ problematic effects in many Catholic schools in Crisis magazine, Greene makes a potent point:

So far there’s no reason to think CC will be any more effective at improving education than the Obamacare exchanges are at getting people enrolled in subsidized heath plans, but it would appear CC has been very effective in undermining religious liberty.

A lot of energy and attention is being expended to debate the Common Core. For a variety of reasons, grassroots opposition has arisen in a number of states. The pro-CC crowd often pooh-poohs claims from some of their counterparts as outrageous, but how do they respond to the salient point in Hanushek’s article?

One might interpret the emphasis on developing the Common Core curriculum as an effort to divert debate away from more intractable fights over bigger reform ideas like improved teacher evaluations, expanded school choice or enhanced accountability systems. While I support better learning standards, we cannot be distracted from more fundamental reform of our schools. [emphasis added]

Supporters put too much faith in the standards, while ignoring basic reforms that could change the incentives and power structures in K-12 education to make a real difference for many students. That’s why I don’t talk much about Common Core — as much attention as it has received — but devote a lot of attention to other ideas and programs with the potential to positively transform.

Guess my thinking hasn’t changed too much in the past six months, which might mean I’ve spent too much time on the topic already.