Some states are changing the name of Common Core Standards in an effort to rebrand the controversial overhaul of American education. In some states the name is removed, and in others it is renamed.
In the face of growing opposition to the Common Core State Standards — a set of K-12 educational guidelines adopted by most of the country — officials in a handful of states are worried that the brand is already tainted. They’re keeping the standards but slapping on fresh names they hope will have greater public appeal.
At a recent meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of the organizations that helped create the standards, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) urged state education leaders to ditch the “Common Core” name, noting that it had become “toxic.”
“Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,” said Huckabee, now the host of a Fox News talk show and a supporter of the standards.
The changes are largely superficial, giving new labels to national standards that are taking hold in classrooms across the country. But the desire to market them differently shows how precarious the push for the Common Core has grown, even though the standards were established by state officials with bipartisan support and quickly earned widespread approval, including the endorsement of the Obama administration.
Supporters say the standards emphasize critical thinking and analytical skills, as opposed to rote learning, and will enable American students to better compete in the global marketplace.
But the wholesale changes in K-12 education that have come with the standards have provoked a raft of critics. Opponents include tea party activists who say the Common Core standards amount to a federal takeover of local education and progressives who bristle at the emphasis on testing and the role of the Gates Foundation, which has funded the development and promotion of the standards. Some academics say the math and reading standards are too weak; others say they are too demanding, particularly for young students.
Across the country, teachers are struggling to revamp their lessons; states are hastily working to adopt standardized tests tailored to the Common Core; and parents are left to wonder about all the changes taking place in the classroom.
Now, with new names, the idea that the standards are “common” might not be apparent.
“You got a whole bunch of politicians, increasingly cross-pressured between activists who don’t want this and the obvious imperative that we have to improve our public schools,” said Andrew Rotherham, a former Clinton White House aide and a co-founder of Bellwether Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving education for low-income students. “The anti-Common Core folks clearly have the momentum right now, so politicians are trying to figure out ways to address the politics of this without tossing it out the window.”
In each case, the new name is designed to impart a local flavor to the standards. One of the main criticisms of the Common Core is that national standards are replacing homegrown benchmarks.
“Here’s what we’re going to ensure: These are Florida standards,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) told a gathering of state GOP officials this month. “They’re not some national standards; they’re going to be Florida standards. This is our state. We’re not going to have the federal government telling us how to do our education system.”
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