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Common Core Raises Eyebrows and Objections

FILE – An English class in Middletown, Del., school. Many US schools implemented national standards for English and Math called "Common Core".

FILE – An English class in Middletown, Del., school. Many US schools implemented national standards for English and Math called "Common Core".

A new poll indicates 40 percent of New York voters believe national education standards have made the state's public school systems worse. The standard, known as the Common Core, is certain to be on political agendas this year and there is no shortage of opinions on what is best for U.S. students.

Last month, New York governor Andrew Cuomo echoed his constituents’ displeasure with the common core.

“While I agree with the goal of common core standards, I believe the implementation by the state education department has been deeply flawed,” Cuomo stated.

According to data from New York City, 13 percent of its public school students are learning English as a second, third or even fourth language. In some schools, such as the Academy for New Americans, every student is an English language learner. With close to 150,000 children and teens learning English, some education experts speculate that the Common Core may present additional challenges.

What is Common Core?

Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and the English language that highlight what students should know at the end of each grade.

But setting national standards is not the path forward for education, says Jim Stergios, the Executive Director of Boston-based Pioneer Institute. He argues that the Common Core will “cement the United States as a pretty mediocre player in education. It cuts off the top end, it does lift up a few states on the bottom.”

A former English language learner takes a different view. Now Chancellor of the New York City school system, Carmen Farina says the Common Core will provide all students with the skills they need to “think for themselves, analyze data, speak before an audience, provide evidence, and compare and contrast…regardless of their native language or neighborhood they live.”

Too much testing?

What do educators think about the Common Core? Recently retired English teacher, Meredith Kehoe, says that implementing the standards constrained educators' ability to address different student learning styles.

“The common core was coupled to the testing going on, so teachers ‘taught to the test,’ even though administrators say this doesn’t happen," she said. "It did and it is still going on.”

New York City native Molly Cohen is now training to become a teacher. She agrees that students spend too much time on testing, but she thinks they will benefit from the Common Core because “it ensures a standard of education regardless of [school] district.”

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama "Open Letter to America’s Parents and Teachers” called for a reduction in tests taken by students. He began with a simple question: “If your kids had more free time at school, what would you want them to do with it?” While not making a statement about the Common Core, the president's letter was seen as a response to the growing public debate over the national standards.