Common Core Reporting

by Ramesh Ponnuru

In a front-page story for the New York Times, Javier Hernández writes, “The Common Core, the most significant change to American public education in a generation, was hailed by the Obama administration as a way of lifting achievement at low-performing schools. After decades of rote learning, children would become nimble thinkers equipped for the modern age, capable of unraveling improper fractions and drawing connections between Lincoln and Pericles.”

There are at least two propositions here the truth of which the Times does nothing to establish, and which I strongly doubt. Is Common Core “the most significant change to American public education in a generation,” for example? I can easily see a counter-case: It builds on No Child Left Behind, it has not actually much affected classroom practice in most places, and official standards rarely make much difference anyway. More important, have “low-performing schools” really been held back mostly, or even significantly, by “decades of rote learning”? I have the impression that more rote learning would be a big improvement in a lot of places.

These statements shouldn’t have been presented as facts in a straight news story.