This post was originally posted on December 21, 2016.

It is a review of my decision to oppose the Common Core standards. A few days ago, I met a high school teacher who told me she had quit her job as a teacher because her supervisor told her she could not teach poetry anymore, due to the Common Core standards. Defenders of the standards will say that the supervisor misinterpreted the standards. Unfortunately, many others are following the same guidelines: Put away poetry and classic literature; teach students to read informational text so the nation can be globally competitive. If I told you there was no evidence for this claim, would you believe me? Do you know that students can learn to read critically and thoughtfully whether they are reading literature or factual information? Every kind of text requires interpretation and understanding.


I oppose the mandated use of the Common Core standards. If teachers like them and want to use them, they should. I have no problem with that. It should be up to the teachers, not to a committee that was funded by Bill Gates, promoted by Arne Duncan, and marketed as a “state-led initiative,” which it was not.


I did not reach this view frivolously or for political reasons. I first read the standards in draft form in 2009. I read them when they were published in 2010. I was invited to the White House in 2010 to meet with the President’s top advisors–Melody Barnes, the head of the Domestic Policy Council; Rahm Emanuel, then the President’s chief of staff; and Ricardo Rodriguez, the President’s education advisor. They asked what I thought of the CCSS. I said that until standards are implemented, until they are tried and tested in classrooms with real teachers and real students, it is impossible to know how they will work. However good they might look on paper, the real test happens in real classrooms, where they must be tried and reviewed. I urged them to give grants to three-to-five states to implement the standards, listen to teachers, work out the bugs, and learn what effects they will have. Will they raise achievement? Will they narrow or lower the achievement gaps among different groups? We can’t know without running trials and revising what needs to be fixed. They flatly rejected my suggestion and said there was no time for that. I realized then that their goal was to have the standards in place in time for the next presidential election in 2012, whereas my goal was to figure out how to make sure the standards were valid and useful for students.


In 2013, after watching the fiasco of the rushed implementation of the standards in New York, I came out in opposition to them, in part because of the process, and in part because of the failure to implement them appropriately and create any mechanism for fixing them.


I also strongly oppose the arbitrary imposition of quotas for literature and informational texts. Those quotas have no basis in research or evidence. The quotas reflected the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) guidelines for assessment developers. As students get older, the tests have more questions that are informational. But the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, had no intention of telling teachers what they should teach or how much time to devote to literature or informational text. (I know this for a fact because I served as a member of NAGB for seven years.) One could read literature for twelve years and still be able to read informational text. The decision about how much time to spend on fiction or nonfiction belongs to teachers, not to national committees.


My bottom line is that teachers who like the Common Core standards should use them; teachers should be free to use any part of them; and teachers should be free to ignore them if they wish. Since they were  never field-tested, never validated, there is no reason to mandate them.


So here are some of the posts from the past that I hope will inform you about the CCSS and why I oppose them:


This was my first post, written in early 2013, explaining why I could not support the standards.


A post where I explained my views to the Modern Language Association.


This post in 2014 explains why the CC failed the test of standard setting.

A post about the battle between fiction and nonfiction.


An explanation of why fiction matters, written by someone else.


Tom Loveless on the decline in teaching fiction.


Johann Neem on the danger of Common Core to the teaching of history:

Research say fiction matters.


That is a small sampling from scores of posts about Common Core.


I had long been a proponent of national standards. The flawed development and rushed implementation of the Common Core undermined my belief. As the results from the tests appeared, it became obvious that national standards do not raise achievement, do not narrow achievement gaps, and do not produce better education or equity. The Common Core taught me that national standards are not a solution to the problems of poverty, lack of appropriate funding, and neglect of education as a primary responsibility of the public. College-and-career readiness are not the purpose of education. Full development of every child’s capacities is. Preparation for citizenship is. Ethics and a sense of responsibility for oneself and to the community are. What matters most can’t be measured. Wisdom. Kindness. Character. Integrity. A love of learning. A sense of justice. Concern for others. Courage.


As time goes by, it seems clear that the biggest beneficiaries of the Common Core standards are the testing companies and the vendors of technology, not students or teachers.