Fox News Needs An Education On Common Core

When it comes to public education, Fox News loves to demonize the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards for K-12 students crafted by governors and state school officials across the country. The network has falsely characterized the standards as everything from too difficult to partisan brainwashing, and given credence to the lie that Common Core is a federally mandated program.

On February 26, while discussing Obamacare enrollment numbers, Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert invoked Common Core, saying, “I think they're doing Common Core math down in Washington. It doesn't all add up. You just throw some numbers together.”

Nauert's misleading comparison is just the latest in a string of attacks on Common Core from Fox News, making it apparent that the network fails to understand how the standards work.

Fox Attack: Common Core Makes School Too Hard But Also Dumbs Down Standards

On the February 22 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox News hosted Lindsey Bocskay, who argued that her daughter's Common Core-based homework was too difficult, calling it “ridiculous” and “stressful” as Fox aired a chyron that read, "'Core' Crisis: Parents May Be Unable To Help With Homework." Co-host Tucker Carlson lamented that her situation “sound[ed] really upsetting.”

A few months earlier on November 19, Fox & Friends hosted Ethan Young, a student who “hate[s]” Common Core, with co-host Steve Doocy noting, “Ethan, one of the things you railed against is the fact that we are dumbing down standards. That's the rap against Common Core.”

REALITY: Common Core Is Designed To Meet Rigorous Standards To Prepare Students For Global Competition

In an article for The Huffington Post, Marc Morial, CEO and president of the National Urban League, detailed Common Core's “rigorous standards,” writing, “it was determined that the Common Core State Standards must be aligned with expectations for college and career success” and “an improvement upon current state standards and standards of top-performing nations,” among other things.

Linda Rosen, CEO of the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Change the Equation, debunked the idea that Common Core “dumbs down” standards, citing the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's findings that Common Core “was more rigorous than standards in 46 states and on par with standards in another five.”

Fox Attack: Common Core Teaches Wrong Answers

On the August 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy falsely described Common Core as a “new national curriculum that the Obama administration is imposing on U.S. schools,” and claimed that a video revealed that students could answer math questions incorrectly and still “get it right” under Common Core.

REALITY: Wrong Answers Will Be Corrected

An unedited version of the video that Fox News attacked, however, shows curriculum coordinator Amanda August explaining that wrong answers would be corrected, and that her school wants to ensure that students understand the process and reasoning of problem solving (emphasis added):

AUGUST: Even if they said, '3 x 4 was 11,' if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer really in words and in oral explanations, and they showed it in the picture but they just got the final number wrong, we're really more focusing on the how.

OFF-SCREEN: You're going to be correcting them, right?

AUGUST: Absolutely, absolutely. We want our students to compute correctly. But the emphasis is really moving more towards the explanation, and the how, and the why, and 'can I really talk through the procedures that I went through to get this answer, and not just knowing that it's 12, but why is it 12? How do I know that?

Also contrary to Doocy's statement, Common Core is a not a “national curriculum the Obama administration is imposing on U.S. schools” -- it is a set of standards that states opt into voluntarily.

Fox Attack: Common Core Uses Data Mining To Track Children

On the January 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News hosted parent Karen Lamoreaux who complained that Common Core was using data mining to “keep track” of children's “afterschool activities” and “voting status.” Lamoreaux argued that because of Common Core, states were “setting up new databases that will link up to a national database.” Co-host Tucker Carlson described Lamoreaux's characterizations as “horrifying.”

REALITY: No Federal Database Of Personal Information Exists

PolitiFact reported that collecting students' data to make decisions concerning curriculum and education standards is already routine, and that Common Core does not change this. PolitiFact also noted that “laws predating Common Core prohibit a federal database of personal identifiable information on students”:

The bottom line: States have been collecting data on students -- and sharing it in aggregate with the U.S. Education Department -- long before Common Core. And that doesn't change because of Common Core.

School districts collect students' names, the classes in which they are enrolled, their reading and math proficiency and whether they graduated on time, said Paige Kowalski, director of state policy and advocacy for the Data Quality Campaign, a national advocacy organization.

States collect the data to help them make decisions -- for example about tests. The U.S. Education Department can only access aggregate data -- for example, what percentage of third-graders in Florida are proficient in reading -- not the test scores of a particular third-grader.

That means school districts don't send student names and other personal details to the federal government.

In fact, laws predating Common Core prohibit a federal database of personally identifiable information on students.

Fox Attack: Common Core Is Partisan, Brainwashing Children With Liberal Values

On the November 10 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, co-hosts Anna Kooiman, Tucker Carlson, and Clayton Morris accused Common Core of inserting liberal values into worksheets and pushing a “partisan” agenda and “left-wing politics,” with Carlson claiming one worksheet said, “Obey the dear leader. Oh wait, that's not in there, but the implication is there.” A few weeks later on November 25, Fox News hosted former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, who argued that Common Core was really just “socialized education” that she called “Obamacore,” and wondered if Common Core helped “indoctrinate” children through textbooks. Co-host Steve Doocy responded, “Obamacore, that's the first time I've heard of that. I've got a feeling we're going to be using it again.”

REALITY: Common Core Standards Developed By Non-Partisan Parties, Do Not Support Or Instill Any Specific Political Or Religious Belief

New York Times columnist Bill Keller pointed out in an August 18 op-ed that “Common Core was created with a broad, nonpartisan consensus of educators, convinced that after decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education, the country had to come together on a way to hold our public schools accountable.” According to the Common Core Standards Initiative, Common Core was developed and is being led by "[t]he nation's governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)," while "[t]eachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders provided input into the development of the standards."

PolitiFact also found “nothing in the standards that suggested any level of government was telling students what political or religious beliefs they should personally hold.” PolitiFact found that critics claiming otherwise were citing a “computer model that has a data field for voting status or religion, typically used by a private school”:

We found nothing in the standards that suggested any level of government was telling students what political or religious beliefs they should personally hold.

So what evidence do the critics have for saying the Common Core will instill political and religious beliefs?

The coalition's report zeroes in on lists of hundreds of data elements a school district might keep on its students. The report linked to a screen grab it created of data elements from the National Education Data Model.

The list shown includes “voting status” and “religious consideration” and “religious affiliation.”

But this is not a required list of data for all states or school districts to collect.

So why are the fields on voting and religion even there?

We interviewed Alexander Jackl, chief architect of Choice Solutions, Inc., an education data software company. He's also one of the original authors of the National Education Data Model.

The data fields are all optional, and the fields for religion are useful for private, religious schools, he said.


So the evidence -- a computer model that has a data field for voting status or religion, typically used by a private school -- is a far cry from the federal government attempting to instill particular religious or political beliefs.

In addition, Dunbar's segment, which was based on her criticism of an environmental science textbook in Texas, has nothing to do with Common Core.