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Framing the Common Core: An Analysis of Four Key Policy Actors

by Juan Gabriel Sánchez - 2019

Background/Context: In recent years, the American political context has become increasingly divided, as exemplified by the debate over the Common Core State Standards. Initially a bipartisan national venture, the standards became immersed in controversy soon after their introduction in 2010. In the aftermath, a growing body of research has examined the Common Core at the policy level; yet little empirical research has analyzed the public messaging of key interest groups involved in the Common Core debate.

Research Design: This empirical study draws on frame analysis (Benford & Snow, 2000) to unpack the public discourse of four policy actors involved in the debate over the Common Core: the Gates Foundation, Heritage Foundation, National Education Association, and education historian Diane Ravitch. It examines policy documents released by each actor to first understand the central public frames present in their discourse about the standards, then unearth the implicit logics (Coburn, 2004) embedded in these frames.

Findings/Results: Four underlying logics—market, technical, democratic, and pragmatic—emerged from the explicit frames used by the four actors. These logics overlap, some existing on both sides of the debate, with opponents such as Gates and Heritage Foundations often using competing public frames about innovation or freedom, while also drawing on similar implicit market-based assumptions about the purpose of education to inform their arguments for and against Common Core respectively.

Conclusions/Recommendations: These findings suggest intriguing similarities in the discourse of key actors involved in education reform and add nuance to growing fears that market-based logics dominate modern education policy (Apple, 2006). Yet some of the discourse still draws on democratic logics, the expressions of which between different actors. Methodologically, frame analysis emerges as a productive means of unpacking hidden or obscured ideas within policy and the discourse about that policy, especially when paired with the concept of logics, which mediate values and action.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 8, 2019, p. 1-34
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22753, Date Accessed: 8/2/2021 2:53:27 AM

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About the Author
  • Juan Sánchez
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    JUAN GABRIEL SÁNCHEZ is currently a doctoral candidate at Boston College. His research interests revolve around teacher education policy and reform, curriculum theory, history education, and the intersections between democracy and education. Within these topics, alignment—between policy and practice, organizational structure and philosophy, pedagogy and curriculum—is a major analytical focus and part of the framework for his current dissertation. Recent publications include a book chapter titled “Stories, counterstories, and tales of resistance: Family history projects in world history classrooms” in Race lessons: Using inquiry to teach About race in social studies. He also co-authored the book Reclaiming accountability in teacher education.
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