Carly Fiorina made several excellent criticisms of the Common Core national education standards during her remarks at the New Hampshire Education Summit on Wednesday:
Common Core may have started out as a set of standards, but what it's turned into is a program that honestly is being overly influenced by companies that have something to gain, testing companies and textbook companies, and it's becoming a set of standards, not on what a kid has to learn but instead on how a teacher has to teach and how a student should learn, and that kind of standardization is always going to drive achievement down, not up.
Of all the knocks against Common Core, the charge that it is a crony capitalist cash-grab for education companies may be the most justifiably enduring. As I've explained previously, powerful companies that stood to profit from widespread adoption of Common Core have won arguably non-competitive bids to supply Core-aligned materials to schools. Insulated from market competition, these actors have failed to deliver a workable product for students.
While raising schools' standards is an aspirational goal, the transition has proved to be a massive disruption for many students. Consider the Los Angeles Unified School District, which spent millions of dollars on a disastrous iPad initiative but wasn't able to procure Core-aligned math textbooks for sixth and seventh graders. Since the new standards make substantial changes to what kids are supposed to learn at each grade level, having the wrong set of textbooks is a nightmare. Indeed, students all over the country are experiencing the joy of having a textbook that teaches one thing, a standardized test that measures something else entirely, and a hopelessly confused teacher caught in the middle. Common Core is exacerbating the very problems it was intended to fix.
Several other Republican candidates spoke at the Education Summit; unlike Fiorina, not all of them oppose Common Core. Jeb Bush, for instance, is an ardent backer, though he has muted his enthusiasm to match dwindling Republican support for the standards. Education Next's 2015 poll, which I wrote about yesterday, showed that just 49 percent of the public like Common Core. That's down 15 percent since two years ago. Teachers are even more against Common Core than the general public, although much of that opposition is directed toward mandatory standardized testing rather than the standards themselves.