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The Real Lesson of the Common Core

Although Arne Duncan heralded the Common Core as "the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education," in fact it is the "latest in a long line of revolutionary approaches designed to improve our public schools" ("The Common Core Commotion," The Weekly Standard, Jul. 21). 

That's why most laypeople are indifferent. They're suffering from "reform fatigue." I completely understand their attitude.  They've heard similar claims made over the past 40 years, and they're rightly skeptical.

I've been writing about education since 1992.  During that time, I've been amazed how educationists can manage to take the simplest ideas and make them complicated.  I realize that jargon is not limited to education.  It exists in all fields.  But when more than $650 billion is spent annually on education, taxpayers deserve to know what they're getting in return.  The Common Core makes it nearly impossible for them to draw fair conclusions.

I've written before that I support national standards.  But I've also emphasized that they must be realistic.  The goal of No Child Left Behind was so manifestly impossible that I was surprised it ever became law.  But it did, with predictable results.  We attempted to learn from the experience when the Council of Chief State School Officers invited a group of educationists to develop a clear set of standards.  However, teacher input was minimal.

It was inevitable, therefore, that the Common Core would find it tough getting support from most teachers. Yet rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, I'd like to see if the standards can be simplified. At the same time, I hope that more attention will be paid to what takes place in students' homes and neighborhoods.  It's there that lessons taught in school can be reinforced.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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