During Thursday night's 2016 GOP primary debate, which aired on the Fox Business Network, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio criticized New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for a litany of reasons, one of which was his alleged support for Common Core. Rubio argued that the United States shouldn't have a president who supports the education standards. Christie was quick to respond that Common Core has been "eliminated" from New Jersey school curriculums. But what exactly are the Common Core standards, and why are they so controversial? Common Core is a set of educational standards for each K-12 grade level. It includes standards for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. While that might sound like a fairly typical program, Rubio takes issue with the fact that it's a federally approved program — he believes that education standards should be decided at the state level. According to Rubio's campaign website, "Common Core has been used by the Obama administration to turn the Department of Education into a national school board." Rubio argues on the site that national standards shouldn't be used for public education. Christie, for his part, said in June that Common Core was "simply not working," before removing the standards from New Jersey schools (after previously supporting them). Of course, the issue isn't as simple as Rubio and Christie portrayed it to be during the debate. As Common Core advocates would note, states can choose whether or not to adopt the Common Core standards — as Christie did when he "eliminated" the standards from his state. There are also plenty of myths surrounding Common Core and what it actually means for schools. The Common Core's math standards, in particular, have been the subject of much debate. As the below Vox video explains, "Common Core is taught in a way that most people over [age] 20 don't recognize." The Common Core methods of teaching math problems might not be the same way you learned math in school — and for some people, that's not a good thing. Common Core wants to help students understand why we solve math problems the way that we do — but its critics argue that it's making math problems needlessly complicated, Vox explains. But as Vox also notes, the United States ranks in a dismal 27th place in terms of high schoolers' math abilities, as compared with 33 other developed countries. Common Core is only America's latest attempt to improve the country's education standards.
Federal education standards might not seem like a huge issue for the GOP candidates to attack each other about. But if Rubio wanted to prove Christie's flip-flopping, he's technically right about Common Core.