Credit: Louis Freedberg / EdSource

EdSource plans to track the Common Core’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign. The following is the first of our occasional reports. 

So far, at least, the Common Core has not become a major issue in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign.

One reason is surely the result of the near total eclipse of most substantive policy discussions in the GOP presidential contest by the presence and pronouncements of Donald Trump.

But it is also true that it has not come up as a significant point of discussion in the two major GOP forums in recent weeks – the candidates’ forum in New Hampshire on Aug. 3 and the debate dominated by Trump in Cleveland on Aug. 6. Nor has it emerged as a significant issue among Democratic candidates.

In both GOP events, moderators asked Jeb Bush, the candidate who has most explicitly supported the Common Core in the past, about his position, and he deftly sidestepped the question.

On both occasions, Bush did not directly endorse the Common Core standards; nor did he come out against them. Instead, he said he supports higher standards but is against the federal government imposing them – a reference to the assertion that the Common Core was in effect imposed on states because the Obama administration gave states that adopted them extra points in the competition to get Race To the Top funds beginning in July 2009.

“I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards,” Bush said in response to a question by moderator Bret Baier in the Cleveland debate, virtually the same response he made in New Hampshire.

Without mentioning the Common Core by name, he pivoted away from discussing the standards  to emphasizing his support for a GOP policy staple – offering parents more choices, which usually includes choices outside public schools. “I’m for higher standards, measured in an intellectually honest way, with abundant school choice, ending social promotion. And I know how to do this because as governor of the state of Florida I created the first statewide voucher program in the country, the second statewide voucher program in the country and the third statewide voucher program in the country.”

Baier then asked Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to respond. Rubio predicted that the U.S. Department of Education would simply turn the Common Core into a federal mandate.

Bush was then asked to respond to Rubio’s comments, and for the first time in the debate directly referred to the Common Core.  He made it clear that he felt the Common Core should be voluntary, not a federal mandate. “If states want to opt out of Common Core, fine. Just make sure your standards are high,” Bush said. “If we are going to compete in this world we’re in today, there is no possible way we can do it with lowering expectations and dumbing down everything.”

This was a more nuanced position than the one he took last November when he explicitly backed the Common Core standards and stated that they should be a “minimum standard.”

“There is no question we need higher academic standards and — at the local level — diverse, high-quality content and curricula,” he said. “And in my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher . . . be bolder . . . raise standards and ask more of our students and the system.”

Bush seems to be avoiding using the term Common Core wherever possible. At the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 14 from the Des Moines Register Soapbox he allowed why: “The term ‘Common Core’ is so darned poisonous, I don’t even know what it means,” he said.

At an “Education Summit” in New Hampshire hosted by Campbell Brown, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Seventy Four on Aug. 19, Bush joked “What’s that?” when he was asked by Brown about his views on the Common Core. (See this video with Bush’s comments on Common Core beginning at 15:54.)

He again approached the subject gingerly, sticking to his talking points. “It needs to be about real accountability, school choice, high standards,” he told Brown. “If people don’t like Common Core, fine. Just make sure your standards are much higher than the ones you had before. We can’t keep dumbing down standards.”

One reason that the Common Core has not become a major issue so far may be that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has never made support for the Common Core a part of her education agenda. In fact, she is not on the record as clearly expressing views in the pro-Common Core camp. Instead, her major focus has been on early education and preschool. In August she added another issue – a major proposal that would allow a loan-free college education.

One occasion when she addressed the  Common Core publicly was in April during her first campaign appearance in Iowa after announcing her candidacy. In a round-table discussion with a small group of staff and students at Kirkwood Community College, Diane Temple, a high school teacher and composition instructor at the college, described the Common Core as “ a wonderful step in the right direction of improving American education. And it’s painful to see that attacked.”

The question gave Clinton an opening to come out clearly in favor of the Common Core. But she chose not to. Instead, she gave a long response that basically said she supported a “core curriculum.” She praised the Iowa Core, which the state adopted in 2008 before the Common Core was drawn up under the aegis of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Iowa subsequently adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, after educators there concluded that there was a “high level of similarity” between the Iowa Core and the Common Core.

Clinton did say she found the fact that the Common Core had become a partisan issue “very painful.”  She spoke favorably about the rationale behind the Common Core that she said was originally intended “to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country, no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was, that there wouldn’t be two tiers of education. Everybody would be looking at what was to be learned and doing their best to try to achieve that.”

However, she too moved quickly away from talking about the Common Core to stressing the importance of providing opportunities for every child — a longstanding theme throughout her political career — which included her early support for No Child Left Behind.

Transcripts of recent comments on the Common Core

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio on the Common Core in the Fox News debate with GOP presidential candidates in Cleveland on Aug. 6, 2015 (Excerpted from the full Washington Post transcript here):

BRET BAIER (MODERATOR): Governor Bush, you are one of the few people on the stage who advocates for Common Core education standards, reading and math. A lot of people on this stage vigorously oppose federal involvement in education. They say it should all be handled locally. President Obama’s secretary of education, Arnie Duncan, has said that most of the criticism of Common Core is due to a, quote, “fringe group of critics.” Do you think that’s accurate?

JEB BUSH: No, I don’t. And I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards directly or indirectly, the creation of curriculum or content. It is clearly a state responsibility.

I’m for higher standards measured in an intellectually honest way, with abundant school choice, ending social promotion. And I know how to do this because as governor of the state of Florida I created the first statewide voucher program in the country, the second statewide voucher program, in the country and the third statewide voucher program in the country.

And we had rising student achievement across the board, because high standards, robust accountability, ending social promotion in third grade, real school choice across the board, challenging the teachers union and beating them is the way to go.

And Florida’s low-income kids had the greatest gains inside the country. Our graduation rate improved by 50 percent. That’s what I’m for.

BAIER: Senator Rubio, why is Governor Bush wrong on Common Core?

MARCO RUBIO: Well, first off, I too believe in curriculum reform. It is critically important in the 21st Century. We do need curriculum reform. And it should happen at the state and local level. That is where educational policy belongs, because if a parent is unhappy with what their child is being taught in school, they can go to that local school board or their state legislature, or their governor and get it changed.

Here’s the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education, like every federal agency, will never be satisfied. They will not stop with it being a suggestion. They will turn it into a mandate.

In fact, what they will begin to say to local communities is, you will not get federal money unless do you things the way we want you to do it. And they will use Common Core or any other requirements that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people in our states.

BAIER: And do you agree with your old friend?

BUSH: He is definitely my friend. And I think the states ought to create these standards. And if states want to opt out of Common Core, fine. Just make sure your standards are high.

Because today in America, a third of our kids, after we spend more per student than any country in the world other than a couple rounding errors, to be honest with you, 30 percent are college- and/or career-ready.

BUSH: If we are going to compete in this world we’re in today, there is no possible way we can do it with lowering expectations and dumbing down everything. Children are going to suffer and families’ hearts are going to be broken that their kids won’t be able to get a job in the 21st Century.

Jeb Bush’s Comments at Candidates’ Forum in New Hampshire  Aug. 3, 2015

JACK HEATH  (MODERATOR): Governor Bush, Common Core curriculum has been controversial here in New Hampshire, standards remain controversial… Should state and local school boards reject any so-called national educational standards?

BUSH: They should.  They should.  States ought to create standards, they should be high, they should be state-driven and locally implemented. The federal government should have no role in the creation of standards, no role in the creation, indirectly or directly, in the creation of content or curriculum.

The federal government’s role in education ought to be to provide support for states that want reform. Governor Jindal has created some amazing reforms in Louisiana, but yet his Title I money can’t be used to enhance those reforms. So the federal government should not have any say as it relates to standards, but we need higher standards, we need robust accountability, school choice, ending social promotion, a comprehensive plan to make sure that more than just a third of our kids are college-and-career-ready.

See the full video of the event here. (Bush’s comments are 2 hours, 2 minutes from the start of the video.)

Hillary Clinton’s comments on the Common Core when she met with students and staff at Kirkwood Community College in Monticello, Iowa in April 2015. (Read the full exchange courtesy of the Washington Post.)

DIANE TEMPLE (HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR): I think the Common Core is a wonderful step in the right direction of improving American education. And it’s painful to see that attacked. I’m just wondering what can you do to bring that heart back to education? What can we do so that parents and communities and businesses believe in American education and that teachers are respected and our schools are respected and our colleges are respected? And we offer a quality education to all Americans throughout the United States?

HILLARY CLINTON: Wow. That is really a powerful, touching comment that I absolutely embrace. When I think about the really unfortunate argument that’s been going on around Common Core, it’s very painful, because the Common Core started off as a bi-partisan effort — it was actually nonpartisan. It wasn’t politicized, it was to try to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country, no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was, that there wouldn’t be two tiers of education. Everybody would be looking at what was to be learned and doing their best to try to achieve that. Now I think part of the reason why Iowa may be more understanding of this is you’ve had the Iowa Core for years, you’ve had a system, plus the Iowa Assessment tests. I think I’m right in saying I took those when I was in elementary school, right — the Iowa tests. So Iowa has had a testing system based on a core curriculum for a really long time, and you see the value of it. You understand why that helps you organize your whole education system. And a lot of states, unfortunately, haven’t had that, and so don’t understand the value of a core in this sense  a common core that then – yes of course you can figure out the best way, in your community to try to reach.

But your question is really a larger one. How did we end up at a point where we are so negative about the most important non-family enterprise in the raising of the next generation, which is how our kids are educated? And there are a lot of explanations for that, I suppose. But whatever they are, we need to try to get back into a broad conversation where people will actually listen to each other again, and try to come up with solutions for problems, cause the problems here in Monticello are not the same problems that you’ll find in the inner cities in our biggest urban areas – that’s a given – we have to do things differently. But it should all be driven by the same commitment to try to make sure we do educate every child. That’s why, you know, I was a senator and voted for Leave No Child Behind because I thought every child should matter and it shouldn’t be you’re poor or you have disabilities so we will sweep you to the back, don’t show up on test days so we don’t want to mess up our scores. No, every child should have the same opportunity. And so I think we have got to get back to basics and we have to look to teachers to lead the way on that.

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  1. Ann 1 year ago1 year ago

    Just referring to the term "Common Core" is one thing. It sounds great - higher standards for all students. Who could argue that! Teaching the "Common Core" standards and taking the "Common Core" test is another. Educators have been given Mt Everest to climb with NO training, no supplies, NO LEADERSHIP. Let's mandate that Jeb Bush, and any other of the silly politicians who are blabbering their fool heads off on this topic, in addition … Read More

    Just referring to the term “Common Core” is one thing. It sounds great – higher standards for all students. Who could argue that! Teaching the “Common Core” standards and taking the “Common Core” test is another. Educators have been given Mt Everest to climb with NO training, no supplies, NO LEADERSHIP. Let’s mandate that Jeb Bush, and any other of the silly politicians who are blabbering their fool heads off on this topic, in addition to anyone in the world in favor of Common Core, to take the 4th grade Common Core test. Try it out yourself. Try preparing little kids to take it. ALL little kids. The same size does not fit all.

    Replies

    • Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

      Ann- I agree with you - the implementation of common core has been less than great for students which is why the State of California has already backed off from meeting the Standards. To make you feel better- maybe Common Core is why Jeb Bush is not doing so well. The concept of bringing up math and English skills is a good one- our nation will not be able to compete if we do not. However- … Read More

      Ann-

      I agree with you – the implementation of common core has been less than great for students which is why the State of California has already backed off from meeting the Standards. To make you feel better- maybe Common Core is why Jeb Bush is not doing so well. The concept of bringing up math and English skills is a good one- our nation will not be able to compete if we do not. However- to profit (grossly profit) from the way the standards are being implemented is a mistake. My District is broke- yet now we have to buy a hard copy book AND a Digital book to cover one topic. Our current technology plan admits that there is no funding to “refresh” technology and that will have to be done on a school by school basis through donations. The American people are not stupid (yet) Jeb Bush and all the politicians in office are not going to do well in the next election.

      • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

        The American economy has been ranked as the most competitive in the world for all but a few years of the last several decades that they have ranked national economies. In those years that the US has fallen out of the #1 position it has been "instability" in the financial markets that is given as the cause. There is no mention of test scores, education standards, or school performance. If you want to wag your … Read More

        The American economy has been ranked as the most competitive in the world for all but a few years of the last several decades that they have ranked national economies. In those years that the US has fallen out of the #1 position it has been “instability” in the financial markets that is given as the cause. There is no mention of test scores, education standards, or school performance.

        If you want to wag your fingers at something related to problems with the US’s competitive stance re the rest of world, wag it at Wall Street and not standards. Though, as the GOP is well known as the puppet of Wall Street, you are not far off in lampooning Bush as well as the rest of the candidates on his side of the aisle.

        • Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

          Gary-
          There is no longer any real difference between Wall Street and Education in fact lots of Wall Strret is “Big Education”. I just bought books for my 2 kids (one a senior and one an 8th grader) the bill was $875.

          • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

            Why do you buy the textbooks, Dawn?

            • Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

              Parents buy the text books at Private School-

          • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

            Dawn:

            Well, you neatly encapsulated the relationship between Wall Street and private education. I was talking about public education, where 90% of the people in the US receive their schooling. And those folks make up the world’s most productive workforce and keep the US in a highly competitive position when ranked with other nations. One of the tasks set before teachers’ unions is to minimize as much as possible the influence of Wall Street on public education policy.

            • Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

              Gary- Public education is what makes Education a Big Business - contracts using OPM "other peoples money. Do you honestly believe college tuition would be at its current levels if the Government didn't offer student loans. Lets all just be honest for once in our life. The left hates corporations - but education is just another big corporation that is even more disgusting because it's income stream is tax dollars. Maybe taxpayers would like to … Read More

              Gary- Public education is what makes Education a Big Business – contracts using OPM “other peoples money. Do you honestly believe college tuition would be at its current levels if the Government didn’t offer student loans. Lets all just be honest for once in our life. The left hates corporations – but education is just another big corporation that is even more disgusting because it’s income stream is tax dollars. Maybe taxpayers would like to say no to Kamella Harris appealing every state court decision that benefits students from using tax money to appeal the ruling on behalf of the teachers union. That is more disgusting then anything any big “corporation” has done. The State of California uses public education to raise taxes to provide entitlements to people who bribe them and then is intentionally making the future of taxpaying children dumber by depriving them of a basic education. That is really disgusting!

            • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

              Dawn: Obviously you have paid no attention to the cuts in state funding to UC, CSU, and community colleges. There are major democratic initiatives to cut or eliminate the cost of student loans. I assume you will be in full support of those candidates and initiatives. Dawn: Kamala Harris is fighting the Vergara case because that is her job, as the case is filed against the state as well as school districts. You can access her appeal online … Read More

              Dawn:

              Obviously you have paid no attention to the cuts in state funding to UC, CSU, and community colleges. There are major democratic initiatives to cut or eliminate the cost of student loans. I assume you will be in full support of those candidates and initiatives.
              Dawn:

              Kamala Harris is fighting the Vergara case because that is her job, as the case is filed against the state as well as school districts. You can access her appeal online and see that she appealed, in part, because the ruling was legally specious. The judge just said teachers’ professional rights were “unconstitutional” and led to poor teachers predominately teaching disadvantaged students. He cited not a single causal relationship between the teacher statutes and educational outcomes for disadvantaged students. There were six hundred pages go court testimony and his ruling, “summing” up the testimony, was 16 pages. It was a ridiculous ruling.

              What’s really disgusting is that CA’s support for schools remains so low and it continues to have the highest percentage of kids in poverty in the US. The US continues to have the highest percentage of students living in poverty in most of the industrialized world. Those are the facts, and I realize that they are therefore liberally biased, and you will continue to ignore them.

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              Gary, is the length of the ruling what concerns you? Or is it your contention that it lacks proof? If the ruling was longer wouldn't you still have the same conclusion? Kennedy's gay marriage ruling was only 27 pages and it affects the entire nation. Was that sufficient for you or was it the content of the ruling? Treu's ruling was based upon the strict scrutiny test requiring the defendants to carry its … Read More

              Gary, is the length of the ruling what concerns you? Or is it your contention that it lacks proof? If the ruling was longer wouldn’t you still have the same conclusion? Kennedy’s gay marriage ruling was only 27 pages and it affects the entire nation. Was that sufficient for you or was it the content of the ruling? Treu’s ruling was based upon the strict scrutiny test requiring the defendants to carry its burden to justify the compelling value of the statutes, which they didn’t. All parties agreed there are ineffective teachers and it was demonstrated quite convincingly that the statutes make dismissing them very complex and costly for California’s underfunded school districts. It was a straighforward case – really a slam dunk for the plaintiffs – and an easy call.

  2. Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

    No one that understands what Common Core is should be against State Standards that align with the Common Core Curriculum. For example the math standard Algebra II by graduation sets a very low bar- the common core math is barely preparing students for success in community college and won't get you into a competitive 4-year college or university. Even more on point is the fact that California graduation requirements are even lower- Algebra I. My … Read More

    No one that understands what Common Core is should be against State Standards that align with the Common Core Curriculum. For example the math standard Algebra II by graduation sets a very low bar- the common core math is barely preparing students for success in community college and won’t get you into a competitive 4-year college or university. Even more on point is the fact that California graduation requirements are even lower- Algebra I. My daughter completed Algebra I in 7th grade. I am pulling her from public school this year and when she went to take the math placement test she was placed into Algebra I B because she had never seen the last three chapters of the book. We asked if she could retake the test after having a tutor teach her the last three chapters. We just received those scores and she is going to be placed in Geometry Honors in 8th grade at her new Private school. Had she remained in public school she would have been in Geometry because our district does not offer Honors Geometry (they have one honors class). It makes me mad – as a tax payer, that I must pay record high taxes and now I have to pay $26,000 per year in private school tuition just to give her the educational opportunity she is entitled to.

    Of Note: Students wanting to go to UC or Cal-State school (not Community College) must complete Algebra 2. In 2013, the number of students in Capistrano Unified that were “College Ready” or “Conditional” in Algebra II was 33% In 2014 that number dropped to 21% (an 11% decline)

    Of Note: The Old California State Standards required that students take 2 years of Math (completion of Algebra I) to graduate. When the state adopted the Common Core State Standards students were required to take 3 years of math (completion of Algebra II) to graduate. It is interesting to note that CDE now has “California” Common Core State standards that require students take 2 years of Math (completion of Algebra I) to graduate.

    A $7,002 voucher would help with my large private school tuition.

    Replies

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      Dawn, I think you mean to say “Anyone who understands what CC ic…”, not no one. But yes, I agree. My son complains daily about the common core lessons that seem to be all about Process of Learning and little to do with content.

      • Dawn Urbanek 1 year ago1 year ago

        Yes I did- "Anyone who understands what CC is..." In 2010 California "voluntarily" adopted the new Common Core State Standards in order to receive a waiver from the Federal No Child Left Behind Act. That required California to change high school graduation requirements from the Old California State Standards of 2 years of high school math and the completion of Algebra 1 to 3 years of high school math (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra 2) and the … Read More

        Yes I did- “Anyone who understands what CC is…”

        In 2010 California “voluntarily” adopted the new Common Core State Standards in order to receive a waiver from the Federal No Child Left Behind Act. That required California to change high school graduation requirements from the Old California State Standards of 2 years of high school math and the completion of Algebra 1 to 3 years of high school math (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra 2) and the completion of Algebra 2. If California were to actually comply with the Common Core Math Standards 75% of current 10th graders in LAUSD would not graduate.

        LA Times Article: http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-lausd-college-prep-20150506-story.html

        Center for Public Education Report: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/out-sync

    • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

      "A decade ago, the big question in California was whether all students should be expected to take a year of algebra before they graduated from high school. State lawmakers responded “yes” to this question in 2000. Students in the class of 2004 were the first to be required to pass Algebra I to earn a diploma. But the transition was not easy. Education Week reported in May 2004 that nearly half of California districts applied … Read More

      A decade ago, the big question in California was whether all students should be expected to take a year of algebra before they graduated from high school. State lawmakers responded “yes” to this question in 2000. Students in the class of 2004 were the first to be required to pass Algebra I to earn a diploma. But the transition was not easy. Education Week reported in May 2004 that nearly half of California districts applied for waivers from the requirement that year. Today [2009], this requirement appears to be fully implemented as a minimum standard for high school graduation.

      http://edsource.org/wp-content/publications/pub_algebra_final.pdf

  3. Parent 1 year ago1 year ago

    Common Core is a set of "National Standards" Republicans are against "National" Democrats are against "Standards" Any questions? Read More

    Common Core is a set of “National Standards”
    Republicans are against “National”
    Democrats are against “Standards”
    Any questions?

  4. navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

    Sounds like bush claims to be against federal intervention on standards but to be for it when it comes to school choice.

    Replies

    • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

      note how he mentioned 4 things we need but only one that the feds should not be involved in. more importantly, note how in another quote he explicitly mentioned vouchers as relevant to the kind of experience he would bring to the federal level. “I’m for higher standards, measured in an intellectually honest way, with abundant school choice, ending social promotion. And I know how to do this because as governor of the state of … Read More

      note how he mentioned 4 things we need but only one that the feds should not be involved in. more importantly, note how in another quote he explicitly mentioned vouchers as relevant to the kind of experience he would bring to the federal level.
      “I’m for higher standards, measured in an intellectually honest way, with abundant school choice, ending social promotion. And I know how to do this because as governor of the state of Florida I created the first statewide voucher program in the country, the second statewide voucher program in the country and the third statewide voucher program in the country.”

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        Navigio, I can't know if your claim of hypocrisy is right, which it very well may be, because I don't know which comments you're talking about. There are several paragraphs of comments by Bush in this article. Or if I did have an idea of which ones I could be wrong. You're putting someone down for their comments, but you won't tell us which comments you're referring to. OK. Read More

        Navigio, I can’t know if your claim of hypocrisy is right, which it very well may be, because I don’t know which comments you’re talking about. There are several paragraphs of comments by Bush in this article. Or if I did have an idea of which ones I could be wrong. You’re putting someone down for their comments, but you won’t tell us which comments you’re referring to. OK.