On Oklahoma AP History Controversy, Wash. Post's The Fix Uses Right-Wing Common Core Smear

Washington Post's The Fix falsely referred to the Common Core State Standards as “federal” and “national,” a scare tactic often used by right-wing media to smear the education standards.

Earlier this week, the Oklahoma House Education Committee voted to ban Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History, “persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students 'what is bad about America.'” According to Think Progress, the bill banning AP U.S. History “would also require schools to instruct students in a long list of 'foundational documents,' including the Ten Commandments, two sermons and three speeches by Ronald Reagan.” As Tulsa World pointed out, the committee hearing also included discussion about the “legality” of teaching any AP courses in the state's public schools, largely from opponents of Common Core.

In a February 17 post at The Washington Post's The Fix blog, Hunter Schwarz wrote that Oklahoma lawmakers “are considering dumping the Advanced Placement program because of its similarities to Common Core,” and falsely referred to the standards as both “federal” and “national” (emphasis added):

It's more controversial in a red state like Oklahoma that's more distrustful of federal standards being imposed; the poll found Republicans are more likely to view Common Core negatively than Democrats, 58 percent to 23 percent.

But there are some major differences between AP and Common Core. For one, schools aren't required to offer AP courses and students aren't required to take them to graduate. Even without banning the program statewide, AP can be a local community decision.

AP is also well-established. About one-third of public high school students in the class of 2013 took an AP exam, and the class of 2013 also scored a 3 or higher on more than a million tests -- a score typically accepted by colleges for credit, according to the College Board, which oversees the program. The University of Oklahoma accepts scores of 3 or higher in nearly 40 subject areas.

Although fighting against national education standards has become popular among some Republicans, equating Common Core to AP isn't a direct comparison, and it's likely to be a tougher slog because of it.

The myth that the Common Core State Standards are a federal initiative has been long debunked, despite its frequent use by conservative media to stoke fears about the standards. Voluntarily adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the Common Core is a set of standards in math and English that was developed by a bipartisan group of governors, state school chiefs, and teachers, among others. As the standards have taken hold in many states, some controversy has surrounded their rollout, with even Common Core supporters calling its implementation “botched.”

The right-wing media outrage machine, however, has turned Common Core into something of a “rallying cry” over the past few years, thanks to the loud and often misinformed voices telling audiences to be angry or in some cases, to boycott the tests associated with the standards. The misguided notion that Common Core is a federal program comes as no surprise from conservative media voices, but is an unfortunate find in The Fix's education coverage.