It was troubling to see that leaders of the state Democratic Party approved a resolution opposing the national education standards known as Common Core.
Washington’s Republican Party leadership took a similar stand last year, but that was not surprising. Many on the right have condemned the program all along, saying it gives the federal government too much power over education issues that belong to the states.
But this is the first time in the country that any Democratic group has officially opposed the new, national standards. Those who voted for the resolution appear to be reacting to concerns that greedy corporations are driving the program and that students are being over-tested and set up for failure.
Many who spoke at the Democratic Party committee meeting also lamented the lack of local control if the state does not withdraw from the Common Core program.
However, the state leader in charge of education, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, supports the national standards and said he has been involved since 2009 when governors and state school chiefs from around the country got on board.
He is adamant Common Core is not a top-down program, which is a contention by the Democratic leadership. His assertion, however, is being lost in opposing rhetoric.
And it is happening just as Washington students are scheduled to take the first, new tests this spring.
It is important for people to understand that Common Core sets the standards that drive the curriculum, but the way Common Core is taught is decided by each of the Washington’s 295 school districts. So, there is some local control and flexibility.
The idea behind Common Core is a good one.
Let’s say a fourth-grade student who is about to learn fractions has to move to another state and never learns the concept. When that student gets to the new school, it turns out fractions are taught in the third grade and so this particular student misses the lesson completely.
Common Core is supposed to help fix this inconsistency. Students who move from state to state, especially those in military families, would be assured their education will not suffer because they had to travel.
But now that the program is finally taking off, it has become a political mess. Many states are debating whether to abandon it, make changes or continue to try and make it work.
There is naturally some anxiety surrounding another round of standardized tests. But Washington teachers have been working to get the kids ready and it would be frustrating to see all that effort wiped away just as testing got started.
Confusion and suspicion are thwarting a program that school administrators and teachers have been building for the past five years.
The goal is worthwhile, and if there are changes that need to be made in its implementation, they should be made. But now is not the time to abandon the concept completely.