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A Bird's-Eye View On Common Core Across The Country

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For more on the state of play nationwide for the Common Core we're joined by Cory Turner from the NPR Ed Team. Hey there, Cory.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: So we just heard a lot about conservative opposition to the Core. Were else's is there pressure on this program?

TURNER: Yeah. The two biggest teachers unions in the nation recently held their annual meetings and Common Core played a starring role. The unions have traditionally supported the standards but they're starting to get nervous. The first Common Core tests kick in next year and it's expected because the standards are higher than many of the state standards they replaced that those scores will drop. And teachers just don't want to be judged on those scores, not yet anyway, which is why some states like California and New Jersey have already moved to limit the role of Core tests in judging teachers in schools, at least for a year or two.

CORNISH: All right Cory, let's step back now and really explain where the Core is and where it isn't.

TURNER: Sure. It is in 43 states, technically. It is not in Virginia, Alaska, Nebraska and Texas. Those are four states that never adopted the Core in the first place. Minnesota is a bit of a wild card - they adopted the English standards but not the math. Now the repeals, there have been dozens of efforts in legislatures across the country to repeal, three have succeeded. The first was Indiana back in Marc. They repealed and then in Indiana was followed in June by South Carolina and Oklahoma. And one interesting note is the language in the repeal bills, in both South Carolina and Oklahoma, took things a step further than in Indiana. They actually said new standards, whatever they are, when they're written - they can't even look like the Common Core.

CORNISH: Now you haven't mentioned Louisiana and I want to focus on that state because there have been conflicting headlines about the Common Core standards there.

TURNER: Yeah. It's actually been pretty bizarre. Louisiana is a bit of a twilight zone right now because while Governor Bobby Jindal came out forcefully recently against the Core, said he was working to drop the standards. His superintendent of schools and the president of the state board of ed., who was a traditional Jindal ally, still support the Core and they say Jindal does not have the legal authority to drop the standards. We should say Jindal was once an avid supporter of the Core and he is rumored to be considering a presidential bid in 2016 so some folks speculate that that's the reason he's doing this, it's hard to say. What we do know is that just yesterday a group of parents and teachers filed a lawsuit against him saying he has, quote, "sown chaos in the education system here." Jindal says the suit has no merit.

CORNISH: Cory, I want to step away from the politics for a second and talk about implementation because as you've said, it's in 43 states right now. How's it going?

TURNER: You know Audie, I went to this Glenn Beck screening last night with Tamara and I heard again and again the Core described as this well organize machine taking over education. And I have to say, from the reporting I've done honestly, my sense of it is the exact opposite. It is a disorganized implementation so far that varies wildly depending on the classroom you're in. You have to keep in mind when the Core was adopted - we're talking the summer of 2010 - states were still reeling from the great recession and some states did it really to share costs, you know, updating or adopting new standards is not cheap. And while some did get help and money from the federal government many didn't and they now find themselves some four years later now realizing when you adopt standards you've got to do lots of other things, you've got to update textbooks and curricular material, you've got to train teachers, and that stuff is not cheap and it takes time. So work in progress.

CORNISH: That's Cory Turner with the NPR Ed Team. Cory, thanks so much.

TURNER: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.
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