Three years after its adoption in 2011, the fate of the Common Core standards is still uncertain in Maine. Designed as a federal means to track the entire country’s academic progress, not everyone is on board with its ultimate goal.
The Common Core
Tracking progress of students from Kindergarten to 12th grade, Common Core is a national standards system, regulating the subjects of math and English language arts across the country. Adopted by many states in 2011, there are now 43 that still adhere to it, with other states, like Indiana and Oklahoma, deciding to drop it after a time. The soul of the idea is very similar to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 in that by implementing nationwide standards, all students will be better prepared to take on the rigors of college and, indeed, get into better colleges no matter where they are from. Every year the students are tested on the benchmark knowledge to ensure they have mastered the tools necessary to succeed in the subsequent years where that knowledge is then expanded upon.
For the Core
The biggest push for Maine to adopt the plan was the financial help from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition sponsored by the Obama administration. Even still, a comparison by Fordham Institute shows that Maine’s curriculum was below that of Common Core. Their English earned a B+ while math only got a C. The biggest issues cited with Maine’s educational track was its neglect of important concepts all throughout the high school curriculum. In addition, many teachers see the standards as a wonderful way to clarify expectations so to better prepare students for the higher levels of academia. It holds everyone accountable, and even though some would say it only puts undue strain on the littlest ones, teachers are finding them more than ready to take on and succeed at a more challenging level.
Yet all that glitters is not gold. Common Core has riled up for more dissenters over the past few years, even though its adoption in 2011 was unanimous. Among the loudest is No Common Core Maine, a group gathering signatures to force a referendum that would get rid of Common Core. One of their tenants is that Common Core is corporatized and otherwise invites the government and big business to impede on states’ rights. As of now, however, this petition is still trying to get enough support. The teachers speaking out against it have the growing concern that obsession of hitting federally ascribed markers will only dilute the quality of education the students are receiving. Because they must spend so much time teaching only the Common Core standards, other critical bits of information are being glossed over entirely. Governor LePage has even recently spoken out against the system, citing Massachusetts’ adoption and subsequent fall from grace as the previously top ranked school system in the nation.
Maine’s adoption of Common Core has done nothing but spark healthy debate over the legitimacy of the government’s extension of power over state school systems. Though the program is still in its infancy and far from structurally sound, the idea it presents is an important one to consider. Right now, states determine their own standards. While this has led to incredible feats of academia in various systems around the country, many of the forgotten schools fall far behind in terms of preparation for the best colleges. Some say remedying this is only possible if all systems are united while others rightfully argue such a move would stifle potential for success. Whatever the outcome is, Maine is a key player in molding the future of schools.