Common Core Misinformation Abounds

This week’s Courier Herald Column: 

The battles over public policy are difficult ones these days.  Too often, there is great difficulty to get the public to engage.  Decisions are then left to the elected leaders and the relatively small number of insiders and interest groups with a direct stake in the policy change.  It is frankly difficult to get the general public to invest their time learning about issues over which they feel they will ultimately have little personal influence or impact.

The current hot policy topic in Education is that of Common Core Standards.  The problem with this policy discussion isn’t so much the lack of engagement, but that the opposition has been manufactured on false grounds.  As such, those trying to learn about this issue are as likely to find misleading or incorrect information about Common Core as they are to educate themselves.

As such, rational debate over concerns with Common Core is lacking. In its place has been a campaign of misinformation that at times borders on hysteria.

To understand what Common Core standards are, it’s first important to understand what it is not.  Common Core is not a curriculum.  It is instead a set of benchmarks that standardizes what each student should know by the time he or she has completed each grade level in Math and Language Arts.  The curriculum – what is taught and how – remains up to states and local school systems to design and implement.

The local control issue is key because the greatest area of misinformation spread on this topic is how Common Core began.  Despite it having deep origins with Georgia’s school curriculum redesign with our standards used as a template when states voluntarily agreed to adopt them nationwide, many opponents want you to believe that Common Core was designed by the Obama administration as part of a federal takeover of education.

You can find this claim on a blog called “Education News”, which says “Common Core is federally-led education introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“stimulus package”) through a contest called Race to the Top (RTTT).”  Depending on your point of view, that’s somewhere between a great distortion and a complete untruth.

The link of Common Core standards to Race to the Top federal education dollars is troubling, as Common Core was initiated by states as a voluntary initiative to avoid the federal government’s imposition of national standards.  To say, however, that the standards are “federally-led” or that the Obama administration introduced these standards moves this statement into the provably untrue category.

Common Core was born out of the idea that states should equate what students learn across grade levels.  The quarterback of the effort wasn’t President Obama, but was none other than then Governor Sonny Perdue.  It was his efforts with the National Governor’s Association that began the effort.

States like Georgia with large military bases have experienced students regularly transferring in and out. They were finding that subjects and concepts are taught at different times and in different grades, putting these transferring students at a great disadvantage.

Perdue remains supportive of Common Core, and rejects that it is tantamount to a federal takeover.  He recently told Peach Pundit’s Mike Hassinger “This was always a voluntary agreement among states who believed that it made more sense as a “vaccination” against federal involvement in education. More than a few of the governors involved, quite frankly, had been embarrassed by the No Child Left Behind Act. For the federal government to say ‘you’re not doing enough to help your students achieve’ was involvement that caught some governors in a bad way.”

And Perdue’s feelings about the opposition?  ““From a partisan point of view, the endorsement of Common Core by the Federal Secretary of Education and President Obama have done more to damage Common Core than anything else. I never heard any opposition or suspicion of Common Core until there was support from the President and his administration.”

Georgia adopted Common Core standards in 2010, which were largely based Georgia’s curriculum redesign that began in 2003.  As with any transition, there are always criticisms, and many of them are valid.

What is invalid, however, is the basis that Common Core is a creation of President Obama so that he could have a federal takeover of education.  If your source of information where you find additional information about Common Core repeats this claim, you should probably consider the rest of any information suspect.


  1. LeeWD says:

    Emerging from lurkdom because I knew I’d get my hand slapped for commenting on Charlie’s facebook page…

    I’ve never had an issue with the standards – One issue I have had has come from the conflation of the word “standards” with “standardization” – where people use Common Core and the like as an excuse to make everything the same, one size fits few if any. Schools I’ve been in where this is the case (and there are many) are sad, depressing places. Learners are entirely too diverse for this to be the case. Standards should provide the goal – how one gets there should be based on the learners present.

    Another issue I have is with the testing, which is frequently low level as far as higher order thinking skills, for standards that really should be assessed in higher order thinking skills ways – often best assessed through observation, discussion, and practice. Test makers and the testing industry are the only winners in this sad, sad game that uses teachers and students as pawns.

    Thanks for writing this – tired of shaking my head when people talk about Common Core as if they know something and they just plain don’t. Guess they didn’t take the standardized test about it.

    • Harry says:

      Well said. One of my fears is that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. When there is one-size-fits-all Common Core in place then perhaps every third grader must be instructed that for example certain immoral and deviant lifestyles are “normal” according to some politically mandated standard.

    • Ellynn says:

      Is the standard the goal or the minium? It was not designed as the goal, as what a child has to strive to achive. The core was designed as the very least a child needs to know to make a productive work force. The local control comes by establishing goals that can push a child to exceed the common core.

  2. Doug Deal says:

    Common core is a boogeyman, like so many things in politics. If a person cannot articulate a positive about something they oppose, they are not opposing it rationally, they are opposing it out of fear or politics. This helps no one.

    I am not a supporter of top down mandates from the Federal government, but the level of paranoia over common core has become ridiculous. It is to the point of being the Chem-trails of education or something similar to global warming hysteria.

    The answer to better education is not designing a perfect one size fits all system. The answer is to improve choices for parents and children so that people can vote with their feet and to make the system more fault-tolerant so people who are not perfectly round pegs can still succeed in their own way.

    • Charlie says:

      You’re new here, so after saying

      “Expect in one hand, spit in the other, and see which one fills up first”

      I’ll more politely say this.

      We have a comments section here, for discussion here.

      Sending someone else to read something elsewhere, discern your point, then come back and argue it here isn’t something I will participate in.

      I spend way too many hours a day here arguing with people that are here. I’m not going to supplement that by taking someone else’s assignments for research projects.

      If you see something that you want to argue here, then bring it back in your own words (no cut & paste). I’m willing to have a discussion with you. I am not willing to argue with another author via you as proxy.

  3. Sherena Arrington says:

    Reply to Ellynn –

    In the Race to the Top November 2009 Executive Summary from the U.S. Department of Education, the definition of what we now call “Common Core,” is stated as follows: “Common set of K-12 standards means a set of content standards that define what students must know and be able to do and that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium. A State may supplement the common standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards for that content area.”

    In an internal document from the Georgia Department of Education, “Common Core Georgia Performance Standards: An Overview for School Level and District Level Leadership,” created on 5/11/2011, it states the following: “100% of the CCSS must be delivered in our curriculum.” In other words, there is no room to modify or move standards or delete inappropriate standards.

    Achieve, Inc., the organization made up of corporate executives and former elected officials, who have been working on this effort since perhaps as far back as the Bush I administration, but certainly since the Clinton years, on page 22 of its report, “On the Road to Implementation: Achieving the Promise of the Common Core State Standards,” wrote the following statement. “States who adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are expected to adopt them in their entirety. While states will not be considered to have adopted the common core if any individual standard is left out, states are allowed to augment the standards with an additional 15% of content that a state feels is imperative. . . . A literal interpretation by states of the 15% guideline (that is 15% added at every grade level and in each subject) would undermine the very reason the states developed the Common Core State Standards in the first place.”

    Consider the implications of such dictates from an unaccountable non-profit entity telling every state in the union what it expects and how little this respects the idea of republican government. The voice of the people is shut out and even the ability to go above and beyond such mediocre standards is taken away from the states in the bargain. We are at a crossroads as to whether we will truly honor the principle of federalism and representational government or whether we will submit to unaccountable, so-called experts, who have merely appointed themselves as the anointed ones who somehow should direct every states’ educational priorities. Keep in mind, they don’t pay the $13 billion in state and local taxes to support K-12 education, and these are not their children.

    Our former Governor, Sonny Perdue, listened to the wrong people. He is still under the false assumption that as Governor he had the unilateral right to commit our state to national standards without considering the voice of the people. This agenda in Georgia was moving forward with Governor Barnes, and Perdue, either knowingly or unknowingly, just furthered what Barnes had been working on in this state. It is a basic principle of republican government that the consent of the governed must be obtained for the executive branch to take action on new policies and new directions. The people of this state, had public debate taken place, would have rejected this outright. People understand that national standards would have had to require, at some level, a means of national enforcement. In addition, they would have rejected it because of the unfunded mandates associated with the entire framework. Grants are the means for ensuring that citizens will be on the hook to pay more in taxes without having a voice in the decision in the first place. Even now, the price tag is still unknown, and there is still a lack of transparency as to exactly what Achieve, Inc. and its many partners, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, have planned for K-12 education.

    • Charlie says:

      “Our former Governor, Sonny Perdue, listened to the wrong people. He is still under the false assumption that as Governor he had the unilateral right to commit our state to national standards without considering the voice of the people.”

      I absolutely love the notion that the Governor who brought Common Core from concept to reality, as head of not only the Governor of Georgia but head of the Governor’s Association, is somehow misinformed on this topic, but that the people sampling clips they can find across the internet are the ones that know the “truth”.

      That’s just so cute.

      • xdog says:

        That’s their whole argument as best I can tell: if we only agreed with their version of the facts, we’d agree with their conclusions. Their problems with elected authority and informed sources is off-putting. I expect they believe Deal should have checked with them before lining up the feds for help to get through the coming ice event.

      • Ellynn says:

        I find music helps when reading all of the long form writing I have been directed at latley. I recommend the 26th movement of Handel’s Messiah when following along at home…

      • Tina Trent says:

        Charlie, you can talk all you want about this being merely a homegrown Georgia plan, and you can hammer your “the ex-governor is darn sure surprised to be associated with Washington” demurrals (larded with selective and laughably disingenuous demands for civility), but this is just political messaging.

        Of course, the first rule of political messaging is the studied avoidance of arguments raised by opponents. And in this, I really have to tip my hat to you and the Chamber of Commerce for the way you’ve made this studied avoidance the centerpiece of the message itself. You claim that opponents of Common Core are making no arguments, and then you claim that you really wish they would make arguments so you could have a much-desired rational discussion with them; then you claim you’re disappointed that they aren’t making arguments, all the while not responding substantively to any of the arguments they are making.

        Similarly deeply disappointed is the ex-governor, as expressed in that bizarre non-question, non-answer non-interview you posted the other day.

        So much disappointment. Do play this game as hard as you want, but let’s get the disclosures out of the way first.

        The C of C received massive funding from Gates’ Achieve to steer media messaging on Common Core. They spent more than fifty million dollars last year in Washington alone to lobby for issues prominently including amnesty for illegal immigrants and Common Core, and then there’s the money spent in the states. You can dress your role in this any way you like — PolicyBEST is a vague-enough title under which to operate in Georgia, but it’s just Chamber of Commerce putting a few more faces and names between themselves and their policy positions. It’s media astro-turfing further astro-turfed by cynical boosters in the legacy media, fronted with a fake Tea Party imprimatur in Debby Dooley and other highly exaggerated bipartisan “coalition” fanfare.

        And then there’s the odd role of the online “objective political pundits” busy squaring the circle, not to mention publicly-funded PBS Teachers shilling nationally-developed Common Core training and curricula while GPB pretends to report on Common Core as a purely Georgia-based and politically neutral venture.

        Everybody’s got to make a living. But at this point, if you don’t disclose your financial and political interests here, you’re just using this forum to behave as if you’re a pundit trying to bring reason to an unreasonable discussion, instead of a consultant promoting his client’s political interests through other means. At PolicyBEST you state: “We will also help conduct an honest public discussion on Common Core standards. There is far more fear and paranoia surrounding this issue that was a Georgia creation. Real problems should be addressed. Faux problems rooted in fear must be rejected.”

        Nonsense. The last thing the Chamber wants is an honest public discussion about this or several other issues. They’ve been working overtime to avoid real debate and real discussion on Common Core and immigration. The language on the PolicyBEST website is identical to the language promulgated by the Gates Foundation in their development of online tools for pro-Common Core messaging rolled out simultaneously in several states — over a million dollars for messaging components. Is any of this messaging cash funding your new coalition?

        “Rooted in fear” is also just political messaging. The marching orders are to repeat over and over that “opposition to Common Core is irrational” while refusing to engage any one of the many arguments made against it. This is paid-for political shouting, not reason. The brand is “fear” and you — and PolicyBEST — are the salesmen.

        No matter what you claim about rational debate on this website.

        • Charlie says:

          Sorry Tina, I seem to have missed anywhere in there the apology that was specifically required of you.

          From the moment you arrived until now, you have done nothing but make unfounded personal attacks against people you know nothing about, because they dared to challenge what you have internalized to be unequivocally true. You have decided everyone against you is evil, and must be funded by people you have also determined are evil. You’ve done all of this without any evidence whatsoever.

          Nothing you have brought has anything to do with the substance at hand. Instead, you have taken every opportunity to try to make this personal, so you can be good and anyone that opposes you is evil.

          I’m not going to debate someone, nor will anyone else here, that has arrived with your attitude, insulting nature, uncalled for attacks, and baseless accusations.

          We tolerate people with very diverging opinions here. We don’t tolerate bullies. Certainly not classless ones such as yourself.

          You have tried to bully someone that will not be bullied, and you will no longer have us to use as a platform for your tripe.

          I look forward to an honest debate on Common Core. It will not be with you.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    A compliment from me may not be helping your cause.

    “It is frankly difficult to get the general public to invest their time learning about issues over which they feel they will ultimately have little personal influence or impact.” It becomes worse when people that don’t have children in the education system and especially those that didn’t attend school in Georgia.

    Sad that the environment is such that Perdue pokes at the federal government to defend Common Core: “This was always a voluntary agreement among states who believed that it made more sense as a “vaccination” against federal involvement in education.”

  5. TorPundit says:

    Ten Reasons To Oppose Common Core:

    1. Common Core is a Federal Takeover of Education

    The ultimate goal of Common Core is to have every school district follow the same national standards. This is a failed educational approach that will undermine educational quality and choice. States and local communities better know how to design standards based on their students and parents’ needs than Washington bureaucrats.

    2. Common Core is Bad for Parents

    Parents will not have a say in their child’s education under Common Core. They will not be able to suggest changes to their local school’s standards or enroll their child in another public school with better standards. Common Core would limit parental choice and shut their voices out of their child’s education.

    3. Common Core is Bad for Teachers

    Teachers would have little control over their classrooms under Common Core. They will be forced to comply with standards decided upon by federal bureaucrat. This leaves little to no room for teachers to innovate to meet the unique needs of their students.

    4. Common Core is Bad for Taxpayers

    Common Core has a hefty price tag that will be paid by taxpayers in states. Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction estimates that Common Core will cost the state $300 million. California Department of Education estimates it will cost $759 million to implement the nationalized standards. Common Core will cost taxpayers a lot of money while not improving education quality.

    5. Common Core is Bad for Students

    Common Core is a one-size-fits-all education policy that assumes every students learns exactly the same. A top down and centrally controlled standards will hurt students’ creativity and learning. Good education policy realizes that all students have different learning styles, preferences, and paces.

    6. Common Core Violates Privacy

    The Race to the Top Grants associated with Common Core violates privacy by “data mining” information about students that will follow them the rest of their lives. The information collected is more than just test scores and academic progress. Common Core will track information on religious practices, political beliefs, “sex behaviors and attitudes”, and more.

    7. Common Core Resembles Failed No Child Left Behind Program

    A main criticism of the failed No Child Left Behind program is that teachers “teach the test.” This means that students are memorizing rather than learning and critical thinking about information. Common Core would resemble No Child Left Behind by requiring students to take national standardized tests to measure their progress.

    8. Common Core is Unconstitutional

    The federal government should not control education. Since education is not specifically listed in the Constitution, the authority over education should be left up to the states and the people. This allows localities from New York City to rural Alabama to design unique curriculums that are best for their students.

    9. Common Core Will Require Some States to Move Backwards

    Some states have advanced standards that are designed with students and parents in mind. Sandra Stotsky, a professor at the University of Arkansas, who served on the committee to validate Common Core standards said, “The standards dumb American education down by about two grades worth.” Some states would have to move their standards backwards to comply with Common Core standards.

    10. Common Core Is a Failed Education Approach

    Washington has tried one-size-fits-all education approaches time and time again. Centralized education programs have not worked and will never work. The quality of education has only declined over the past few decades. The solution is to get the federal government out of the education business.

      • Will Durant says:

        Charlie already said “If you see something that you want to argue here, then bring it back in your own words (no cut & paste). I’m willing to have a discussion with you. I am not willing to argue with another author via you as proxy.

        Apparently TorPundit has a reading comprehension problem. Besides that there is nothing there but one person’s opinions yet again, not a single citation of a fact.

        Will someone please answer me why it is so bad for a state that ranks near the bottom of the barrel to have the same minimal standards as other states that rank higher?

        • Harry says:

          I see nothing wrong with cut and paste if done in proper context.
          Shouldn’t Georgia have standards that are reasonable for Georgia, not Iowa? And Georgia should allow for the fixing of appropriate standards required of each school district, school, classroom, and student. No person is created with equal attributes.

    • Charlie says:

      Will Durant is correct. You have already failed at comprehension. If only we had a common standard for that….

      Even so, I’ll start with your first cut and paste point:

      “The ultimate goal of Common Core is to have every school district follow the same national standards. ”

      School districts don’t follow standards. It is their job to coordinate their schools & teachers to implement a curriculum that is set by the state and the district. The standards are the check to make sure that these efforts are successful. Thus, there’s no ‘following standards’. They are either met (success) or not (failure).

      “This is a failed educational approach…”

      Please cite for me when exactly this was tried before. Be specific.

      “…that will undermine educational quality and choice.” A platitude with no meaning, support, or basis in fact. There is nothing about these standards that limits choice, and the quality is still fully under the control of how state and local systems implement instructional programs whose goals are to meet OR EXCEED these standards.

      ” States and local communities better know how to design standards based on their students and parents’ needs than Washington bureaucrats.”

      Another platitude. This one comes closer to hitting the mark, but misses the overall point. If every job market was local, you may even be able to accept this platitude as fact. But, assuming you want the students graduating from any particular school system to have the opportunity to have the best job or attend the best university available, you may also want to ensure that what they learn is transferable beyond the local community.

      There, there’s your homework. Now yours is to put items 2-10 into your own words, and cite examples/defenses for the claims you are making. (or at least, your “work” of cutting & pasting the words of others).

      • John Konop says:

        The real issue both sides are missing much of the end of year testing system is a wate of money and time…..

        Just a few examples:

        1) AP level students take end of year testing for credit already….and this is used for ranking AP level teachers….the testing is way above common core…..why send the money on having students take an unrelated test?

        2) Joint enrollment students are taking college classes….why would we spend money testing them with common core? Unless you think we should use common core for all college students? You do know all joint enrollment students take SAT/ACT? Is common core better than that?

        3) All vo-tech programs already have standards to be certified to do the skills….how is common core better than the aptitude test than standards will all agree on….for nurse tech, trucking…..

        I could on and on….this is why I have said for years the regents
        ( higher education) needs to be connected with k – 12. If we merged the higher education system already works on an exceptable standard system….if we started working backwards we could clean up this issue, and focus more on skills for jobs, 4 year colleg….rather than k-12 telling driving what is needed….this solution works for private, public, home, charter…..

        And it would save lots of money while increasing quality….I have talked with many key people in the system and all agree this makes more sense….but they always warn about turf wars and testing industry….

  6. Sherena Arrington says:


    School districts do follow standards. I don’t know why that fact has escaped you. Teachers follow standards. Have you not visited any schools? This is so much the case that along the hallways, the standards are posted and assignnments, which confrom to those standards, are posted in the hallways beside them. Teachers will tell you they follow the standards in what and how they teach because their evaluations will now be tied to the test scores of students. It counts 50 percent of their evaluation.

    Regarding your comment on my input, either you believe in representational government and the foundational principle of the “consent of the governed” in a Republic or you do not. The Executive Branch is given its powers from the people. The people are represented by the Legislative Branch. The constant erosion of liberty occurs because the Legislative Branch gives away too much of the people’s authority to the Executive Branch. The founders understood Lockean principles. Locke was quite clear that the sacred trust of the people could not be delegated away. However, in our day, we are far, far away from the restraints of the Executive Branch that the Founders intended the Legislative Branch to exercise on behalf of the people. Any study of political science will show that Executive Power in any form (president, king, etc…) will continue to grow unless it is actively restrained. When Executive power grows, you will experience less liberty, more lawlessness, and more taxation to support the pet projects of the Executive.

    My background is constitutional law. My experience in educational policy goes back 20 plus years. Sonny knows me personally. I’m sure he would probably remember the first time we met on the Senate floor before he announced for his campaign for Governor. He understood the importance at that time of positioning himself against the policies resulting from No Child Left Behind. He should have understood how RTTT (a mere grant) with its Common Core mandates (among others) would be like No Child Left Behind on steroids. He should have also understood that the educational philosophies of Marc Tucker, who influenced him, do not result in public laws and policies that support a free society.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Take comfort in knowing that eventually you’ll be proven right, but be warned that it will be tempered by the fact that people will still listen to those who have been repeatedly proven wrong.

  7. jeffincher says:

    Conformity vs. Creativity

    I confess to having lots of doubts about Common Core. This is a serious issue, and the push back against those who do not favor the CCS Standards is not conducive to a civil debate. In any debate a good question was always something that was encouraged not reviled. This issue is not cut and dry, for if we know anything about human development we know that different people develop at different rates. So when you talk of standards you must give broad latitude to the criteria that you seek to raise as the standard. Academic knowledge, is but one attribute of an individual’s persona, and academic success is dependent on success in other areas such as emotional and physical development. So when I hear advocates for CCS Standards say that I seem to be confused about the difference between standards and curriculum, I shake my head in wonder at the just how off base this argument is in terms of the research that has been done on psychological development. In the rush to justify metrics we are missing the greater objective of what an Education really should look like.

    Have CCSS Standards been field tested? No they have not. So how then can CCSS be raised as the “Holy Grail” in Education.
    Certainly there is much money to be made in Education. Metrics, databases require IT professionals, hardware and support.

    Education should never be about conformity to a Standard, it should be about the creating an “enlighten” person. In the rush to incorporate technology and metrics in the classroom we are about to make an expensive mistake, one that will have a pronounced impact on our ability to innovate. My greatest fear, is that we confuse, the computer with a teacher. A computer is a tool, a teacher is a mentor that understands the student, his shortcomings and works to help them overcome his deficiencies. That type of success and progress cannot be measured by a number or percentile.

    I highly encourage you to read Erick Erickson the psychologist, not the talk show host. His work in Psychological development is still held in high regard. For Erickson, instead of focusing on cognitive development, he was interested in how children socialize and how this affects their sense of self.

    Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

Comments are closed.