Confused about the Common Core?

The Common Core approacheth: Starting with the 2014-15 school year, Oregon public schools will do away with the old OAKS testing and usher in the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a new standardized test that evaluates student performance by Common Core standards. If you’re not sure what the Common Core is or wondering why it has parents, teachers and students all out of sorts, check out EW‘s story here first, but then come back and hop onto NPR’s Common Core FAQ, published yesterday. In it, you’ll find all sorts of interesting answers to questions, such as, “Where did the Common Core come from?” Turns out, the standards have surprising connections to corporations like Exxon Mobil and Microsoft. Or, there’s this little bit of information:

21) Who is making money off of Common Core?
Potentially lots of people. The size of the K-12 instructional materials market in the U.S. was estimated at $20 billion in 2012 (PDF). By comparison, the size of the trade publishing market was $6.53 billion in 2012. According to a survey last year, 68 percent of school districts planned to purchase new materials aligned with Common Core.
The transition to Common Core coincides with the ongoing transition to digital educational materials like apps and e-books. That means that it’s not just the traditional textbook publishers and test makers, like Pearson and CTB/McGraw-Hill, that are lining up to create Common Core-stamped products. It’s also big technology companies like Apple and startups like Amplify — a brand owned by News Corp. that produces a tablet designed for classroom use and a multimedia Common Core-aligned curriculum.
Other potential profit centers from the Common Core will be in professional development for teachers to prepare them to teach the standards, and extra tutoring and test prep for students to help them learn the more rigorous standards and pass the new, harder tests. Parents already spend an estimated $11 billion (PDF) on tutoring, test prep and counseling services.
Also of note: Earlier this month, Oregon’s teacher’s union, the Oregon Education Assocation, called for a moratorium on Smarter Balanced. “Oregon is moving forward with a new unproven, high stakes standarized test — Smarter Balanced — as soon as next spring,” OEA president Hanna Vaandering says on OEA’s website. “When the timeline doesn’t allow for giving 100 percent to preparing our students, none of us should be suprised by the prediction that 65 percent of all students will fail the first test. This makes absolutely no sense. Why would we spend millions of dollars on a test that students are predicted to fail?”