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Public Education, Common Core, the Law, and You

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 10, 2016 3:58 PM

If you haven't been near a public school in the last few years, you may have missed out on one of the biggest public policy battles of the past decade: Common Core education standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative seeks to set out a single, comprehensive set of standards of what every student should know in English and math in every grade, from Kindergarten to the senior year of high school. They've been adopted in 42 of the 50 states, but they face stiff resistance from some teachers and parents who reject the new standards and the increase in standardized testing that accompanies them.

But Common Core isn't just about education, testing, and college readiness -- it's also about the role of federal and local governments in education and, ultimately, about the law itself.

The Rise of Common Core

The proliferation of Common Core standards is heavily associated with the federal government, but Common Core is not the product of federal lawmaking. Instead, the idea of nationwide readiness standards first began to gain traction in the 1990s. The Common Core standards as we currently know them came together in 2008, when the National Governors Association and the Council Chief State School Officers concluded that states needed to upgrade their standards.

Common Core standards were quickly adopted by states, often to qualify for federal grants under President Obama's "Race to the Top" program, or in exchange for waivers to certain "No Child Left Behind" requirements. Standardized tests, administered by two main testing consortiums, are used to ensure that Common Core goals are being meant.

Common Core Controversy

Government backing led to the widespread adoption of the standards over a few short years. That was followed by an equally wide backlash, as parents and pedagogues worried that too much time was being spent "teaching to the test." In Florida, for example, 60 to 80 days of the 180-day school year were to be dedicated to standardized testing. Such an emphasis on tests has led some states to retract their initial support, while students who perform poorly on the tests worry that their graduation prospects could be delayed.

The experience in Ohio is illustrative. After adopting Common Core in 2010, Ohio withdrew from Common Core testing in 2015, with the state General Assembly officially nullifying any Common Core standardized testing done that year. In other states, parents have organized boycotts of the Common Core tests, keeping their children home on testing days. In New York State, more than 55,000 students boycotted the 2014 tests.

Common Core Resources for Legal Professionals

Despite the controversy, Common Core hasn't disappeared. As the debate about college preparedness and standardized testing continues to play out, attorneys will want to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest developments. Aspatore's new special report can help you do just that. (Disclosure: Aspatore is FindLaw's sister company.)

"Common Core Learning Standards: Drawing Battle Lines in K-12 Public Education" surveys the landscape of the Common Core dispute, covering everything from the basic requirements of Common Core to how different states are responding to the controversy. Written by leaders in education and education law, it's the perfect crib sheet for legal professionals looking to catch up on the debate -- and to see what might be coming next.

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