As we approach the November midterm elections, and the 2016 Presidential election, the nation will again critically reflect on candidates’ policy platforms. Education policy, specifically, the Common Core Standards Initiative will be central to the debate. The Common Core Standards Initiative provides national standards and learning objectives for students’ evaluation. Some parents, teachers, and elected officials argue that this policy is ineffective way to educate future citizens and should therefore be discontinued. Specifically, proponents of this view claim that the Common Core exams are too strenuous for students, and forgo other important topics like history and foreign languages. Despite these legitimate concerns, I believe that the common core is an effective start to education reform.

The common core was created to correct flaws in the education requirements established by the No Child Left Behind law implemented in 2001 under the Bush Administration. The Common Core establishes learning objects and academic standards in mathematics and English that should be completed before the completion of each grade. The goal of these standards is to provide students with academic skills that will allow them to be successful in college, career pursuits, and life in general. State and local educational and school boards have the authority, to determine the way that the curricula are taught.

Education reform is pertinent issue for all: students, parents, teachers, and public officials. The effectiveness of our education system has a direct impact on our democratic system of government and the overall well being of our country. For instance, education is important during elections. We choose public officials who we believe can solve serious policy issues. It is imperative that citizens have the necessary skills to intelligently ascertain who is the best candidate. Another example is policy made through referendum measures where citizens and communities make policy decisions through voting.

A recent survey published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, found that only 36 percent of Americans could name all three branches of the US government. As a democratic nation, it is imperative that its citizens are competent in subjects like literature and math so they can become informed decision makers.

Forty-five states, and the District of Columbia, participate in the Common Core Standards Initiative; however, some states have raised some significant objections to the program. One example is Cornell University’s home state, New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has deemed the states implementation of Common Core standards to be “flawed” and has appointed a board investigate the effectiveness of the program. Marion Brady, a teacher, administrator, curriculum designer assert that the tests are too difficult for students; in particular, the test do not accurately evaluate complex thought, do not take into account cultural biases, and fail to measure non verbal learning. Brady also explains that important subjects such as history and foreign language are not receiving enough attention. It is important, in my opinion, to provide students with the ability to critical think, which the Common Core does; however at the same time, it is also important to learn about other cultures and societies across the world. The damage of not studying foreign language and history denies student the opportunity to learn about other cultures and global actors.

Future policy makers should ensure that legislation establishes specific timelines and organizations to oversee that resources are allocated to appropriate organizations. The Common Core’s reputation has suffered, in my opinion, due to poor implementation. Teachers did not feel like they were prepared to teach the Common Core. One significant detractor to the teaching of was the Common Core is that teachers were given scripted lessons. Having a script makes it difficult, if not impossible to, include different types of learning style. This makes teaching lessons difficult because students learn differently. However, this year more teachers believe they are better prepared to implement and teach the new curriculum now than they were at the start of the program. Teachers are probably more prepared, in my opinion, as teaching materials catches up with the curriculum

Although there are some significant problems with the Common Core, there have been positive effects. Students in early education programs in New York City have started to produce high quality work. Specifically, teachers have seen their students talk more in class. Teaching materials, such as textbooks, have not kept pace with the new educational reform making it difficult for teachers to teach students. Another issue, in my opinion, is that the tests are new and that there will be a learning curve for teachers and students. I believe that as the program progresses we will see the positive effects of the common core. I think we will begin to see students develop critical thinking at earlier ages. We need to understand that the change is going to take time and effort. Further, the Common Core should be examined in three to five years to ascertain possible improvements. I think it will take some time to see the results. I think we will see the best results in younger students who have been taught under this new program for a long time. I think it is important to get a long term on the progress of the program. The program cannot be accurately evaluated in a short period of time. The Common Core exemplifies the importance ensuring that essential materials are allocated at the correct time.

Rob Tracey '16

Written by Rob Tracey '16

Rob Tracey is a fellow at the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, with a focus on Social Policy. He is particularly interested in health care and education policy. Rob received his BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Hartwick College. He is a native of Baltimore County, Maryland.

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