First, it was Indiana’s Mike Pence. Then, it was South Carolina’s Nikki Haley. Now, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has become the latest in a string of governors to try to un-adopt Common Core education standards.
The Republican from Baton Rouge issued a lawsuit last week against President Barack Obama’s administration, claiming that the implementation of Common Core standards forces states to “cede their authority over education policy to the federal government.”
The lawsuit comes as part of a growing shift by some states to get away from the standards that have become so vilified across the country.
Ironically, Jindal was once a strong proponent of Common Core, which is designed to create a national benchmark for English language arts and math. When Louisiana’s state education board adopted the standards in 2010, Jindal actually said it would help students prepare for college and careers.
And let us not forget that South Carolina officials initially supported the idea, as well.
In September 2009, South Carolina became the 48th state to hop on the Common Core bandwagon after then-Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, and then-Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, a Democrat, co-signed the project application, and then the South Carolina Board of Education voted the next year to adopt them.
This strategy of now trying to punt away these education standards clearly isn’t a case of wholehearted buyer’s remorse. It’s largely about our education system becoming politicized.
It seems policy makers are increasingly losing track of what’s best for students and instead aiming to score political points. It’s no coincidence that rumors are now swirling that Jindal will run for president in 2016.
Sure, Common Core has its imperfections. The math standards in particular have drawn criticism for being too stringent, and some have said the curriculum continues the undesired culture of “teaching to the test.”
If anything, proponents of Common Core actually say it aims to peel back the “teaching to the test” mentality that has permeated classrooms as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was promoted and signed into law by former President George W. Bush.
Also, Common Core is not a scheme hatched by the Obama administration behind closed doors. The curriculum was actually developed by a nationwide consortium of educators and other officials who saw the need to institute tougher standards and provide a platform where students in all states are judged by the same criteria.
Educators need to emphasize critical-thinking over memorization, and trying to teach in ways that prepare students for college and a career. It’s also greatly unnerving that U.S. students are now failing to crack the top 20 when it comes to global rankings of reading, math and science proficiency.
Yes, there are legitimate concerns that the standards devalue a well-rounded education, particularly by overshadowing works of fiction and pushing out literary classics in exchange for a greater emphasis on non-fiction and analytical writing. But ultimately, we must remember that these standards once received widespread, bipartisan approval by educators and policy makers.
It’s clear that such support has now eroded, to some extent, merely because of politics.
South Carolina lawmakers, for instance, are now requiring the state to design new academic standards for the 2015-2016 year, only a few years after giving the go-ahead to implement Common Core. This isn’t wholly misguided, but it’s easy to see how this push is tinged with politics and political expediency.
Education in our state – and other states throughout the country – is now stuck at a crossroads. And any discussion about its future is quickly moving away from what’s best for students and more into the polarized realm of politics.
What we need is a legitimate commitment toward ensuring students get a well-rounded education that will prepare them for an increasingly competitive workforce.
What we’re getting is a divisive, partisan debate that’s doing little to move our education system forward.
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