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January 24, 2014 12:56 PM More on the Republican Backlash Against Common Core

By Ed Kilgore

There are all sorts of legitimate concerns being expressed across the political spectrum about the Common Core Standards initiative that is the latest and perhaps last expression of a decades-long bipartisan (and generally business-driven) effort to lift the performance of public schools, particularly with respect to the children whose futures depend on quality K-12 public education. But it’s increasingly clear that in one party, concerns that might be addressed are being replaced by rejection and sabotage, at precisely the moment the initiative is reaching its first critical stage. Check out this summary of recent developments from Stateline’s Adrienne Lu:

Beginning in March, more than four million students will serve as guinea pigs for the English and math tests for the Common Core, a set of standards adopted by almost every state that map out what students should know and be able to do in each grade.
Ultimately, Common Core tests will be used to assess both students and teachers, and they are critical to the larger mission of the standards: to increase academic rigor for all students and to allow states to better evaluate their students and compare them to those in other states.
The testing that will take place starting in March will serve as a dry run for the two groups of states that have banded together to develop Common Core tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). In most states, the real Common Core tests will begin in 2015.
But as controversy over the Common Core has challenged some states’ commitment to the standards, a number of states have decided to withdraw from PARCC or Smarter Balanced or to use alternative tests, raising questions about the cost of the tests and the long-term viability of the multistate testing groups, which received $360 million in federal grants to develop the tests. The federal grants will end this fall, and it is unclear whether the testing groups will continue past that point.

Which states are we talking about here? What do they have in common?

In December, Kansas withdrew from the Smarter Balanced coalition, opting instead to commission tests from the University of Kansas. Earlier this month, Alaska also announced it would withdraw from Smarter Balanced and instead use tests from the University of Kansas. In September, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, ordered the state’s education department to withdraw from PARCC and consider other test options. Utah withdrew from Smarter Balanced in 2012. Georgia and Oklahoma withdrew from PARCC last summer. Alabama, which had been a member of both Smarter Balanced and PARCC, withdrew from both groups; Pennsylvania has said it will use its own tests.

Every one of these states have a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature. So while it’s true there are Democrats with doubts about Common Core, there’s no doubt who is unraveling the consensus under pressure from ideologues who aren’t all that committed to public education—you know, “government schools”—at all.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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