Common Core

Federal Involvement Is the Problem With Common Core, Education Experts Agree


Jens Rötzsch

The Common Core education standards have become increasingly controversial since their creation in 2009. Supporters have pointed to the need for higher, more consistent standards; much of the opposition has focused on the confusing new method of teaching math. But both of these arguments ignore the fundamental problem with Common Core: federal involvement.

By using heavy-handed incentives to compel states to adopt the standards, the federal government destroyed the notion that Common Core was a legitimately state-led effort. Washington's actions made it nearly impossible for education leaders to adjust the standards to meet the needs of states and school districts, and prevented them from testing the standards against alternatives. In short, they created a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach to education policy.

This problem has now been recognized by education experts across the Common Core divide. Chris Minnich, chief executive of the Council of Chief State School Officers and a prominent Common Core supporter, acknowledged as much on Wednesday at a panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), when he said:

"The federal involvement in this has just been not helpful, in every scenario…I think it's pretty clear that most of us, I can't say 'all of us who support the standards,' but most of us, believe that declaring our independence [from federal involvement], making sure it is and remains to be state-led, is critical."

Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at AEI, agreed with Minnich, pointing out that that federal involvement was not only unhelpful but also unnecessary:

"If the federal government had never waded in to this, back in 2009, I think…about 15 states probably would have gone ahead and done the Common Core on their own. I think they would have figured out a way to do a common assessment…and I think what we would have seen was a truly and genuinely state-led effort, which, if it was working and if it was being implemented well, other states would have wanted in [on]."

Had Common Core remained a voluntary, ground-up initiative, it would be far less controversial. States would have the freedom to tailor its implementation according to their needs, and comparing outcomes would offer evidence on whether the new method of teaching math is actually worth the hassle.

This would have meant that Common Core was not a set of national standards, but that is not a bad thing. On the contrary, having state rather than federal standards allows for experimentation and competition. That's a feature of competitive federalism, and it's why education policy was never meant to be the federal government's responsibility.

NEXT: Ebola Took the CDC by Surprise. But They Sure Do Have Lots to Say About Why You're So Fat and Sleepy.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    1. I don’t get it.

      Is this just a SHOCK VALUE! KIDS SWEARING! thing? Because Vice does this a lot better with their ‘kids telling dirty jokes’ series. The message I get from this is that feminists think I’m stupid enough to fall for shitty emotional manipulation.

      This comes off as something that feminists pass around on facebook to ‘prove how awesome they are’ a la Watson’s UN speech and such.

      1. Hey, people fall for shitty emotional manipulation all the time.

        Last year, we passed two HUGE tax levies in my town that were marketed under the phrase “Say ‘Yes’ for Kids.”

        Of course they passed. Who hates kids? (Except me; I hate kids)

          1. You know, you’d think folks would rethink their position when Simpsons parodies it like that…

            1. Self awareness is a rare skill, passed down only by a few Tibetan monks deep in the Himalayas.

    2. Wow, that was annoying. And it has nothing to do with the message. It would have been even more annoying if they were spouting libertarian ideology, because then it would be embarassing something I support.

  1. Federal Involvement is not the Problem here.

    The Real Problem is that Common Core should had been introduced as follows:

    1 3
    2 3,4
    3 3,4,5

    And, as a parent doing homework with kids and looking at this stuff (luckly, my daughter is in 3rd grade), the stuff is crazy. But, my daughter is getting it better than I am. I do things the old fashion way. I teach that to her as well.

    I would had been pissed, and I agree with all of the parents that are pissed, if my kid was in a higher grade.

    Unfortunately, to fix schools and apply a common curriculm across the good-ole USA, we need to consider that schools sucked to start with. And the fix may or may not work.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.