A cadre of critics — from conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck to Diane Ravitch, a newly prominent defender of traditional public education — are sounding the alarm about the Common Core, a new set of standards that will lead to national standardized English and math tests for K-12 schools. But the avalanche of antipathy at best misunderstands what the Common Core does. A common nationwide test, which is the real goal pushed by the Obama administration and codified by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, will not radically change our schools — but will make it easier to evaluate future curricular innovations.
A common nationwide curriculum, meanwhile, is a terrifying but phantom bogeyman. No one is seriously proposing it. Yet the idea is being used to discredit the common tests that would enable us to better evaluate the approaches that different school districts choose.