Publisher's note: This post, by Jim Tynen, was originally published in the Education section of Civitas's online edition.
The News and Observer has come up with another delusion about Common Core State Standards: that the only explanation for opposition to the standards "is that [NC] GOP leaders are being led around by tea party extremists."
That's the claim News & Observer editors made in a recent editorial
. Blaming the Tea Party is a convenient tactic. It allows editors to put forth their favorite narrative: Extremists are driving the conservative education agenda and in the process sabotaging a bipartisan effort adopted by 45 states to improve academic standards.
There's only one problem: It's not true.
To believe the Tea Party is the major thrust opposing Common Core is to ignore the academic, political, philosophical and pragmatic critiques of Common Core. The critiques have been offered by groups across the political spectrum. Both liberals and conservatives have helped to fuel the pushback against Common Core in 35 states across this country.
Diane Ravitch is a prominent historian, education reformer and scholar at New York University. As you might guess about an NYU professor, Diane Ravitch is not a member of the Tea Party. Ravitch is a vocal liberal critic of Common Core who has written insightfully about the problems associated with the implementation of the standards. She laid out her decision to oppose Common Core in a lengthy and thoughtful blog post.
Lest N&O editors think Ravitch a lone voice in the halls of academia, editors should consider Harvard Professor and Brookings Institute Researcher Thom Loveless. Loveless set off a firestorm two years ago when he wrote a study of the Common Core Standards and concluded they make little or no difference in student achievement.
Dr. William Mathis, of the University of Colorado and the National Education Policy Center on that campus, has expressed his concern that Common Core is dominated by corporate interests. He also believes adoption of a set of standards and assessments by themselves is unlikely to improve learning, increase test scores, or close the achievement gap.
Paul Horton is a teacher of history at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Horton is another well-known liberal progressive who argues that Common Core undermines the teaching profession because its only purpose is to generate profits for businesses. Horton has done much to rally his fellow liberals against Common Core. I could go on but you get the point.
N&O editors disregarded these developments and their impacts nationally. Editors have also conveniently ignored much of the real pushback against Common Core that has occurred in blue states.
Gov. Cuomo of New York has heard an earful from teacher union activists and concerned parents of all political persuasions who oppose Common Core because of how teachers are evaluated. The recently-approved New York state budget included a provision that delays the impact of Common Core test results on students. Cuomo has also said he may revisit Common Core's impact on teachers later in the legislative session.
Last year Massachusetts voted to delay implementation of Common Core tests by two years while it compares assessment tests. Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester called the proposed timeline to implement the Common Core assessments "too precipitous" for his state's schools.
It's also interesting to note that last month the 110,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association elected a president, Barbara Madeloni, who opposes high-stakes testing, the use of tests to evaluate teachers, and Common Core standards. During her campaign, Madeloni called for a vigorous campaign against the "corporate forces" behind the standards and other evaluation efforts.
Do these developments impact North Carolina? Yes. The facts suggest the Tea Party is far from the only opposition to the Common Core standards. Diane Ravitch has written about many recent educational developments in North Carolina and both liberals and conservatives have invoked Ravitch's views on Common Core.
The criticism is filtering into the teaching profession. An informal 2013 Civitas online survey of public school teachers in North Carolina found that nearly two-thirds of all teachers favored slowing down or halting the process of implementing Common Core standards in North Carolina public schools.
Anyone familiar with the public comments voiced at the last LRC Common Core Committee meeting heard the standards being criticized for any number of reasons, including being age-inappropriate, giving too much power to unelected officials, over-reliance on testing, and excessive influence of corporate interests.
Current efforts against Common Core Standards in North Carolina are a fusion of critiques from the right and left. Conservatives oppose Common Core because it violates federalism and takes away control of education from parents and states. Many progressives and liberals oppose Common Core because they feel threatened by the standardization of education and by how businesses may reap billions from these changes if they can exploit the opportunity.
Finally, doesn't the major funder of Common Core also deserve scrutiny? By one estimate, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent $2.3 billion to develop and implement Common Core standards in the states. Since 2008, the Gates Foundation has given North Carolina organizations about $17.2 million – much of it to the Hunt Institute – to implement Common Core Standards. The Gates Foundation is by far the single biggest funder of the Common Core Standards in North Carolina and nationally. For as much as N&O editors like to bring down individuals for throwing around their money and influence, it is stunning that the newspaper remains virtually mum on the tremendous influence Gates' money has had on developing and spreading Common Core in North Carolina and nationally.
The paper continues to claim the Tea Party has brought North Carolina to the precipice. The facts speak otherwise. So does the N&O's silence.