With Waivers, National Standards Anything but Voluntary
Lindsey Burke /
Supporters of the Common Core national standards push are becoming increasingly wary of Washington’s entanglement with what the Obama Administration has been trying to sell as “voluntary.”
Writing in National Review Online last week, Checker Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, expressed his concern that the Administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers, which require states to have adopted “college- and career-ready” standards to be eligible, are lending more credibility to the argument that the effort behind Common Core is in fact an effort to implement national standards and tests:
The greatest potential for political controversy, however, is the requirement that states seeking waivers “have already adopted college- and career-ready standards” in math and English language arts, which is preceded (in the White House document) by reference to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. This will surely be viewed by Common Core skeptics as entangling Title I with that heretofore state-driven initiative and creating new federal incentives for states to embrace its “national” standards. I happen to think the Common Core standards are generally worth embracing, but I also understand that much of what’s good about them is their separateness from Uncle Sam. That distance is now disappearing.
From Race to the Top (which required states to adopt the Common Core standards and bankrolled the common assessments) to the Administration’s rhetorical and financial support of the national standards push, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have consistently coaxed the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Now, the conditions-based NCLB waivers, with their requirement for national standards, get to the heart of the matter: The Common Core State Standards Initiative has been pushed as far as it has gotten in large part by federal dollars and pressure. This push for national standards and tests has become a federal enterprise—and a dangerous direction for our nation’s education system.