In 2013, Gallup reported that 62% of Americans had never heard of the Common Core. The anti-Common Core documentary “Building the Machine,” released a few weeks ago, begins with a narrator intoning, “Before the fall of 2012, very little was known about the Common Core. The media wasn’t covering it. It wasn’t part of the national discourse. It wasn’t even on parents’ radar.”Democracy deficit.
If true, that’s a significant claim. The Common Core state standards are no small change. Forty-five states and D.C. adopted the K-12 reading and math standards, and promised to modify their tests, textbooks and teaching accordingly. In hot pursuit of federal Race to the Top funds, states hurriedly agreed to what proponents celebrated as a landmark change. The New York Times termed the Common Core “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” and Duncan said it “may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown vs. Board of Education.”
Change of this magnitude are typically hashed out in robust public debate. The Common Core was not.
In a recent study, we used the news search engine Lexis-Nexis to track media coverage of the Common Core during its five-year history. The results show just how little attention the Common Core received when it was being unveiled and adopted. In 2009, the year the draft standards were first released, there were 453 mentions of the “Common Core.” For comparison’s sake, that year, there were 2,185 mentions of Disney actor Zac Efron. Not a single reference to the Common Core mentioned “controversy,” “critic,” “opponent,” “supporter” or “defender.”
By 2013, the issue exploded into the national consciousness, with 26,401 mentions. Of course, by that point, most states had been implementing the standards for years. Some criticism of the Common Core has been hyperbolic and rife with dubious claims. But today’s seemingly “misinformed” pushback may be mostly a case of frustrated citizens waking up to a fait accompli.
What does this all mean?
First, it’s hard to look at these numbers and not conclude that the mainstream media dropped the ball. The standards were rarely covered even as states planned to alter instruction for tens of millions of students.
Second, these results reflect a strategy of supporters seeking to stay below the radar in 2009, 2010, and 2011, while relying on the helping hand of the federal Race to the Top program. The thing is, stealth is a dubious strategy for pursuing fundamental change in 100,000 schools educating 50 million children.
Third, the democratic process relies on information. A lack of familiarity has proven to be fertile ground for all manner of rumor and uncertainty. Ultimately, informed consent is the key to policy durability.
The Common Core was foisted on students, parents and teachers with precious little open debate
BY FREDERICK M. HESS , MICHAEL Q. MCSHANE
The profound indifference to parents and taxpayers on the part of the people who run public schools has always amazed me. Their indifference amazes me so much so that in the last couple of years I've taken to saying I'm amazed by my capacity to still be amazed.
This go-round our policy elites here in New York state decided -- consciously decided -- to give kids hard tests most of them would fail. Intentionally giving kids tests you know they will fail is an appalling idea, but our policy elites were free to make and execute that decision on their own recognizance. They didn't have to check in with John Q. Public first.
And when John Q. Public checked in with them, they didn't have to say they were sorry.
My favorite moment here in my own district -- this was pretty funny, actually -- was the standing-room-only Common Core confab at which the curriculum director told us that parents "watch TV" and "read the internet" so they don't understand Common Core.
Then she showed us a TV show about Common Core. A TV show that's on the internet.
After we watched the TV show, one of the building principals stood up and told us that her sister doesn't understand Common Core because her sister watches TV and reads the internet.
I was amazed.