Common Core FAQ


The Common Core State Standards have vaulted into the national consciousness lately thanks to some high-profile dissenters, like Louis C.K. (“Kids teachers parents are vocally suffering.”) and Stephen Colbert (“Common Core testing is preparing students for what they’ll face as adults—pointless stress and confusion.”) NPR wades through the confusion by answering questions about the standards. (NPR)

Love them or loathe them, we can help you find materials to satisfy the Common Core State Standards.

Discussion Ideas

  • Why do supporters of the Common Core think the standards are necessary?
    • That’s question #3 in the NPR FAQ.
      • No Child Left Behind, a federal law, mandated that all states give annual tests in grades 3-12 to ensure that all students were proficient. However, each state chose its own test and its own definition of proficiency. So, in practice, the numbers couldn’t really be compared from state to state. In theory, with the Common Core come common definitions of proficiency for each grade, allowing for clearer comparisons of how kids are doing from state to state and school to school.
      • Those previous, state-specific standards—in lots of cases—were also not as rigorous as the Common Core. So adoption of the core standards, in many states, means a rise in quality.
      • In the past, private companies created textbooks, materials and tests to satisfy requirements for 50 different states. A common, agreed-upon set of standards enables a single marketplace of materials, which [in theory may] lead to more competition.
      • Other countries with high-performing students also use a single set of national standards.
      • A single set of standards, including sequencing from grade to grade, should make it easier for students to catch up when they switch schools or move to a new state.


  • What are major criticisms of the Common Core?
    • There are actually two debates going on here, and it’s important to distinguish them.
      • First, there is the debate around the idea of a “common core” of educational proficiencies (standards). Should the U.S. have uniform standards for all students? If so, what should those standards be?
      • Second, there is a debate around the way the existing Common Core was created—the way it was funded, developed, written, evaluated, and promoted. Who should determine what the national standards are, and how is that determination made?


  • Former George H.W. Bush Assistant Education Secretary Checker Finn has said “Conservatives hate anything with the word ‘national’ in it, and liberals hate anything with the word ‘test’.” This clearly isn’t true—it’s a generalization. Still, it’s a great starting point to evaluate the debates. Why do conservative critics not support the Common Core? Why do progressive or liberal critics not support the Common Core?
    • Many conservative critics think that mandated national standards are an infringement on states’ rights and local (even parental) choices about education. According to the NPR article, for example, “[i]n April 2013, the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution calling the Common Core ‘an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children.'”
    • According to a similar article in Slate, many progressive critics think the standards are a “crude mandate that’s going to push arts and science even further out of schools, limit the teaching of literature and creative writing in classrooms, and end up being used to rate schools and teachers unfairly.”


  • Most objections to the Common Core are not ideological or political. Why is there a larger grass-roots movement questioning the standards?
    • The standards were largely created by entrepreneurs and politicians, with little input from classroom teachers or parents. Supporters of the Common Core (notably Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) have been dismissive of this criticism.
    • The tests were funded by many nonprofits affiliated with industries that financially benefit from the new testing structure—the hardware, software, and educational testing industries. Some critics hint at a conflict of interest.
    • Nonprofits and the federal government offered financial incentives to school districts that successfully adopted the standards. Some critics say this rushed adoption of the standards at the cost of thoughtful analysis and evaluation. In this way, the Common Core has been a part of the debate surrounding 2014’s “Education Spring”, in which many school districts across the country boycotted standardized testing.

3 thoughts on “Common Core FAQ

Leave a Reply