Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Education Next: Common Core Is A Set Of Standards, Not Curriculum

Opponents of the Common Core, a set of nationally-crafted academic standards, rallied at the statehouse before a January Senate Education Committee hearing.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Common Core opponents rally at the statehouse before a January Senate Education Committee hearing. They argue the nationally-crafted standards represent a government overreach and dictate what curriculum Indiana educators must teach.

Right-leaning online journal Education Next has an interesting commentary on the words used to describe the Common Core, a set of nationally-crafted academic standards adopted now by 45 states.

The problem, writes Peter Meyer, is the new standards are often described as a curriculum:

As Lisa Hansel of the Core Knowledge Foundation notes in the first sentence of her recent Education Week commentary, “The Common Core Needs a Common Curriculum,” the CCSS themselves clearly warn against this conflation (here): “[W]hile the standards make references to some particular forms of content, … they do not … enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum.” [Emphasis added.]

Indeed, the CCSS in English Language Arts do emphasize “informational texts,” do provide recommendations of the kinds of texts that should be read, and are a cut above most state standards on the rigor and content front. But they are not a curriculum.

It is not a small distinction, since standards provide goals and a curriculum provides the day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year road map for reaching those goals. As Cunningham says, “The standard is the bar that students must jump over to be competitive. The curriculum is the training program coaches use to help students get over the bar.” If we don’t understand that distinction, we encourage all kinds of mischief in what is so far a laudable effort to improve the chances of American students to succeed in the new world economy.  Without a curriculum we send students willy-nilly, untutored and unpracticed, toward the bar; it won’t matter how high it is.

It’s an important distinction, especially in Indiana and other states where pushback against the Common Core has gained legislative traction. Earlier this spring, lawmakers voted to “pause” implementation of the new standards pending legislative review.

Indiana’s fiercest Common Core opponents, a pair of Indianapolis parents who formed the group Hoosiers Against the Common Core, argue that the new standards are dictating curriculum in schools across the state. They’re especially concerned about the impact of requiring students to read more informational texts could have on high school language arts classes.

“It’s about Indiana keeping control of what the students are learning and how we are going to test them,” says Erin Tuttle, who helped lead the statehouse fight.

Got a question about the Common Core? We’re still taking your Core Questions. Connect with us via FacebookTwitter or email and let us know what questions you have about Indiana’s Common Core pause.


  • John Stoffel

    Standards and Curriculum are pointless distinctions. In a high stakes testing environment, which Common Core will exacerbate, what is tested is what is taught.

  • Nadeem Asghar

    Stoffel is right . Common Core Standards describe the exact bredth & depth of learning (knowledge & skills) expected from students. I wondrer how these are different from the earlier adopted Outcome-Based standards. Moreover, if state prescribes the CCSS, how schools can develop and adopt diversified curricula? Curricula then will be just “hows” for getting the CCSS. The positive aspect of these CCSS lies in its advised scheme of assessment, which might lessen inequalities in students learnings in different regions.

  • vjhr

    Got this right off a public high school website: “LHS has implemented the Michigan Merit Curriculum and is currently in the process of creating electronic curriculum documents. Copies of these documents are available upon request at the LHS office. Students at Lakeview High School will be working with the new Common Core Curriculum with staff as we continue to make the transition to the Common Core Curriculum. The Curriculum at LHS is stored electronically on the network and is accessible for parents upon request.” Can’t help but notice that they refer to the Common Core Curriculum several times.

  • StephenWV

    The superintendent of schools in Harrison County WV stated to me that yes the “standards drive the curriculum.” I suppose what that mean is also up for debate.

    One area the disturbs be is the introduction of opinion pieces to be read and analyzed. I have to ask what types of writings are opinion pieces that are being introduced to our children? Why is the emphasis in K-6 on opinion pieces? Why is no one concerned that the CONTENT in these analysis are being absorbed by young minds eager to learn, as FACT? And only less than 10% of analysis is directed at opposing opinion and bias of the writing being presented?

    Seriously, Common Core Standards is a methodology that allows for a teacher to introduce their own bias and political agenda into the minds of their students. After all, I believe they think what is best for the students to learn is the same as whatever their own ideas and beliefs are about politics, environment, religion, sexuality, government’s purpose, etc. They would be hesitant, either consciously or sub consciously, to introduce something other than what THEY believe is best for the students. Since it is agreed that most teachers are liberal progressive, that is the pervasive ideology that will be taught to our children. I am sure there is 30% to 40% of the parents that are all for this. But what of the other 60% to 70% who might not like this underlying liberal political indoctrination brainwashing their children?

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »