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November 2013 Brief: Volume 20, Number 33

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The Problems of the Common Core


by Jennifer L. Crull



The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a hot topic of discussion. Most of us are hearing in the main stream media that the CCSS is the future of education all across America. What main stream media isn’t telling us is about the problems and concerns that educators and parents have with them. This BRIEF will give you an overview of CCSS and a few of the problems associated with them.


Surely everyone has heard the term CCSS, but what does it really mean? CCSS are national K-12 standards in math and language arts. They are currently being implemented in 45 states and Washington, D.C. Iowa had adopted these standards into their Iowa Core. The Iowa Department of Education’s Website states that:


The vision for the Iowa Core is to ensure the success of each and every student by providing a world-class curriculum. The Iowa Core is designed to improve achievement of all students, preparing them for the world of work and lifelong learning. It identifies the essential content and instruction of critical content areas that all students must experience.[1]


The goal of the CCSS is to make all our students “college and career-ready.” This project was funded by the Gates Foundation and was written by Achieve, Inc., National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officials. They lacked the participation of states’ departments of education, local school districts, and parents. These are three keys groups that are needed for any initiative to be successful.[2]


There are a few good points with the CCSS. The main goal CCSS was trying to accomplish was to have all school districts studying the same things at the same time. This would mean that a student moving from one school district to another wouldn’t have gaps in their education, and they should be able to pick right up in the new school. CCSS is also intended to push students to do more critical thinking and use higher order thinking skills. The standards for math were designed to push for a better cognitive understanding, along with science putting a focus on experiential learning.


There are several arguments against the CCSS. Among them are the loss of local control, loss of student and family privacy, and a lowering of educational standards. School districts in Iowa pride themselves on local control. The adoption of the CCSS in the Iowa Core gives up the local control that school districts have had and gives the power to control curriculum to the state and federal governments. The states have to adopt the CCSS exactly as written, which removes the local school district’s ability to decide what is best for the students in each individual district.


The adoption of the CCSS by the states was not optional. Any state that wanted to apply for “Race to the Top” funding had to adopt the CCSS in order to apply. Also, if any state wanted to apply for the waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, the state was required to adopt the CCSS. Rather than a choice for the states, it is another instance of the federal government using taxpayers’ money to blackmail, and this is why 45 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted them.


Another issue is the loss of student and family privacy. In order for states to qualify for Stimulus Bill funding, the federal Department of Education required the individual states to build expensive databases to track student data and progress. This database was suggested to include the following information:


[E]ducational data, test scores, homework completion, extracurricular activity, health care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status, political affiliations, religious affiliation, housing information, bus information, telephone information, family government assistance information, personality traits, work techniques and effort etc., over 400 data points in all.[3]


While on the surface this may sound like a great idea, the Obama administration wants to share this data with other government agencies and private entities without student or parental consent! In January of 2012, the federal Department of Education changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to allow for the transfer of students’ data “to any governmental or private entity designated by the Department and others as an ‘authorized representative,’ for the purpose of evaluating an education program.”[4] The department did this without congressional approval.


The last point we will look at is that CCSS is a lowering of educational standards. While supporters of CCSS argue that the standards are more rigorous and “college ready,” not everyone agrees with this. We need to work with our students so they have better critical analysis skills, but the CCSS is not the answer to this problem.


If we take the subject of math, in which I received my bachelor’s degree, for example, I believe that we have to memorize the facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These are facts that never change, and in order to understand higher level math, where we rarely use numbers, you must understand the rules and facts of mathematics. “3+5” is always 8, no matter how you argue the points of your reasoning. When we deviate from given facts we are making math, once a black and white subject, full of shades of gray. I know full well that with my college students down to my fourth grader when I ask the question “Does this answer make sense?” they struggle to use their reasoning skills, because they have relied too much on a calculator and can’t fathom that the calculator gave them an answer that doesn’t make sense.


Governor Branstad recently signed Executive Order 83, which says “The State of Iowa, not the federal government or any other organization, shall determine the content of Iowa’s state academic standards, which are known as the Iowa Core.” Additionally the Executive Order also states, “The State of Iowa, not the federal government or any other organization, shall choose the statewide assessments that will measure how well students have mastered the Iowa Core.”[5] This is a good start for Iowa taking control of education and keeping the federal government out of state issues.


As you can read from the points above, there are many reasons to be concerned about the CCSS that is working its way into all aspects of education, especially in the state of Iowa. So I would encourage you to attend school board meetings and learn about the implementation plans. Currently the CCSS is fully implemented in grades 9-12, but next school year it must be fully implemented in K-8. If we don’t question the impact these standards have on our students who will? We don’t want a generation being brought up believing that only the government can make the right decisions for our children.


[1] Iowa Department of Education, “Iowa Core,” <> accessed on October 4, 2013.
[2] State Representative Sandy Salmon, Concerned Women for America Resource, October 2013, <> accessed on October 10, 2013.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, “Controlling Education From the Top Down – Why Common Core Is Bad for America,” May 2012, <> accessed on October 8, 2013.
[5] Governor Terry Branstad, Executive Order 83, State of Iowa, October 18, 2013, <> accessed on November 1, 2013.


Jennifer L. Crull is a IT Specialist with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact her at



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