California is one of 45 states switching to the new federal educational benchmarks in English and math known as Common Core Standards. The changes are scheduled for the 2014-15 school year, and implementing them is expected to cost the state over $1 billion. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson kicked off a “Common Core Summer” of training for teachers, but a Gates Foundation poll last year found that 27 percent of teachers nationwide felt unprepared to teach the new standards. Also, critics say tougher standards don’t necessarily equal better outcomes, and might even create more difficulties for English Language Learner students. We discuss how the state’s Common Core Standards will affect students and schools.

Show Highlights

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent for public instruction; and former member of the CA State Assembly for the 11th District
Jill Tucker, education writer for the San Francisco Chronicle
Arun Ramanathan, executive director of the Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based educational policy and advocacy organization focused on low-income and minority students
Eric Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution
David B. Cohen, Associate Director of Accomplished California Teachers; English teacher at Palo Alto High School
Alice Mercer, 6th grade teacher at Bancroft Elementary School in Sacramento

  • Elizabeth Rubenstein

    Our children are not standard nor common.
    The Common Core was developed without teachers and forced upon school districts by the Federal Govt.
    Too much is tied to testing that only benefits the publishing companies. Let’s put those billions of dollars back into the classroom.

  • An independent look at the Common Core math standards:


  • HeatherGC

    I would like to know what kinds of changes are proposed for assisting teachers with behavioral issues in the classroom? My sister is a teacher in San Mateo and I have heard her disappointment with the lack of education teachers are provided for helping severely emotionally challenged students in the classroom. How are teachers supposed to teach common core standards when they have to address the alarming increase of expanding class size coupled with taking time out of their teaching to address students with behavioral issues?

  • Chemist150

    If I can take what is said on this program as gospel, I see a serious problem.

    In a class of fourth graders, the range of reading skills should not be grade levels 2-6. The children with grade 6 skills should not be in the same class. There should be segregation of these children. Grade skill 2-3 should be grouped and then 4-6, or some variant of this that is more appropriate.

    A high skill reader, for example, should not be held back because of the trouble of a low skill reader. The “achievement” level will be attenuated because of this system.

    I have to say as I consider having children in the state of California, I’m concerned with this. Although, I’ve moved to a better school district.

    • rockinlinus

      “segregation” . . . nice. where are you from again?

      • Ehkzu

        You don’t like the word. Fine. But speaking as a former gifted student, I snoozed my way through 90% of my public school education, never challenged, never engaged. And teachers can’t tell who’s gifted, oddly enough. The California Association for the Gifted has cited research showing that teachers only spot about 50% of their students who are gifted. Generally they conflate docility with giftedness, and troublemaking–common among the bored–with stupidity.
        When I got to found the gifted student program at an exurban high school, many of my students in that class had never been challenged either.

      • Chemist150

        It would benefit both the advanced and those that are behind.
        The advanced would be able to move on unhindered and those that need more help would have more time devoted specifically to the their needs instead of the teacher trying to attend to many separate issues.

  • Donald A. Hagelberg

    Dumb Finns

    They Be Teaching Us How To Teach?





    • Ehkzu

      Finland achieves higher test results for students while spending a small fraction of what American school districts spend per pupil. Five reasons:
      1. Much more in-depth teacher training and higher pay.
      2. Elimination of all physical education/sports, which is done in Finland by local towns and cities.
      3. Finland administers the nation’s system with about 600 non-teaching staff. The LA Unified School district with a comparable number of students has about 3,600 nonteaching staff. That’s what soaks up the extra money.
      4. Team teaching in most classes, where the second teacher focuses on getting slower students the extra help they need.
      5. Nationwide testing is never used to evaluate teachers or students.

      • Donald A. Hagelberg


    • Donald A. Hagelberg

      The Finns are only the highest ranked in education..why not see if some of their ways of teaching will work for us.?

  • Ehkzu

    KQED listeners may not realize that outside America’s metropolitan areas–which includes most of California away from the coast–evolution is often not taught or glossed over. Not because of the curriculum, but because of pressure applied to individual science teachers by fundamentalist students and parents. The same is true for many kids who get homeschooled in order to indoctrinate them. So–what does the Common Core curriculum do about this issue?

    You can see the research proving this at the National Center for Science Education website ( http://ncse.com/ ).

  • c03x1s7

    I hold a California teaching credential, teach full time as a tutor to
    over 100 students, and have two children in public school. Education was a
    mess 25 years ago and is more of a mess now. NCLB and Race to the Top
    made lots of money for various companies while making education worse.
    Common Core will continue the idiocy. Schools are
    politically-controlled, test-focused, one-size-fits-all meat grinders.
    No wonder so many people are home schooling. Torlakson, Duncand, and all the other politicians need to buzz off and let teachers teach.

    -Simon in Fremont

  • Virginia Tibbetts

    We need a moratorium on testing as other states are now doing. Testing is different, so we need time get our kids ready for this. Our district is not prepared and neither are the kids.

    • Ehkzu

      Testing is fine. Basing teacher and/or student evaluations on testing is the problem. Even the best teacher can’t overcome community issues outside his scope of control. Same goes for students.

    • David

      If not a moratorium on testing (which would be fine with me), then at least a moratorium on using the testing data for high stakes policy decisions. CA State Board of Education President Mike Kirst is an expert in education research and policy, and has said that you need at least three years of data from a program like this before you can really begin to figure out what it’s telling you.

  • Virginia Tibbetts

    All the money that will go to the technology part. Did anyone on KQED check into the corporate link to CC$$? Bill Gates is on record saying this opens a new market for him. Why would we just give away our money to these corporate entities without some input from the public and teachers? Follow the money.

  • Educator

    Where are the opposition callers??? They are being filtered out?

  • Educator

    Where are the opposition speakers?

  • Educator

    Poorly put together!

  • c03x1s7

    What a terrible episode. There was no real criticism. Awful.

  • David

    Thanks to Forum for putting more teacher voice into the show. It’s always difficult to address such a complex in a short time, with so many people to fit into the conversation. Here’s a link to much of what I’ve written about the Common Core – with a mix of support, opposition, and all sorts of uncertainty in between.

  • Katie Waddle

    As a public high school teacher in SF, what I’m most excited about with Common Core is the fact that I don’t have to go national conferences and talk about the California standards. They were an embarrassment, and prevented effective cross-state sharing of resources and strategies. I’m really excited that we will have a common basis for conversation across the country. I also have spoken with a few different writers of the math standards, and really believe in the way they made their decisions. I encourage people who are negative about the common core to do some research and see what it’s really about.

  • Ivan

    What I hear being described is standardisation.  When did we become obsessed with evaluating our education by testing children. Are we goin to start doing the same with college students next? We all should know better by now. It’s a dumb idea. I agree with the guest that we should focus on teachers. How about using the money wasted on developing and implementing these useless tests on funding the shcools themselves.
    There was a point in which we trusted our teachers, schools, and school districts to evaluate children’s progress and teacher effectiveness. What about the parents? Are the other guests implying that parents can’t evaluate and their own children’s progress. This is looking more and more like some dystopian sci-fi. We are forgeting that chilren are individuals that learn in different ways and at different paces. The best performing schools are the ones that

  • 20autismmom10

    I made these comments on some other blogs recently and they apply to this article as well:

    “No one has answered the privacy questions regarding the Gates/Murdoch ibloom “Cloud” that will control/store and possibly “share”(sell) our children’s personal/private information to 3rd parties: http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/federal-district-court-tries-u-s-dept-of-ed-today-for-destruction-of-family-privacyconsent/

    We need to ask why so many corporations and businesses were involved with CCSS instead of academics and educational child development experts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvUMk1ro27E

    I wrote a comment to this story: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/06/07/teacher-review-this-is-how-common-core-works-in-my-classroom/comment-page-1/#comment-245781
    asking specifically: “How will common core account for the special needs child who is damaged like mine was? What pace would be considered acceptable for students who suffer clinical depression and shut down? And why can’t we opt out of the “online” testing requirements and have an alternative method for students with disabilites?”

    These questions and 65 more were asked by North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest in his letter to the NC Department of Public Instruction. We need to ask the same of Supt. Torlakson before proceeding: What is inBloom’s association with CCSS and what specific services do they provide?
    Have representatives from inBloom contacted the Department of Instruction? If so, please share all correspondence between inBloom and DPI. Here is the link to the rest of his letter: http://www.susanohanian.org/core.php?id=530

    Will the children (now attending private schools) of Bill Gates, the
    Waltons, the Broads, the Kochs and our elected officials be subjected to CCSS in their small classrooms (that are considered “underutilized” in regular public schools for vulture take-over by corps -see Chicago)? http://reclaimreform.com/2013/07/26/but-not-for-his-own-kids/

    What is the REAL agenda behind CCSS and why doesn’t the public have all the information? Those are the questions that should be asked…”

  • Daphne

    I am so disturbed by what I heard this morning that I can’t sleep. Your common core evangelists sounded like corporate drones who are completely divorced from what education is really about. The guy casually mentioned that cursive is being tossed out the window to be replaced with keyboarding. The act of cursive writing is deeply connected with how we intrinsically think as humans. These common core drones are all about productivity. The oft-repeated line about “teaching them how to think, not what to think” is Orwellian in that they will be doing the complete opposite. And in all these discussions I never hear ANY mention of parents and what WE might want for our children. It’s all top-down dictatorial federalism. I have 2 kids in private school and 1 entering public kindergarden and now it seems that somehow I’ll have to cough up the money for a 3rd private school tuition. I would homeschool, but this child is very social and loves being out of the house with other kids – he would be miserable. Public education is now dead. It’s no longer education, it’s training the workforce. I fear for the future of my youngest son, and for humanity.

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