The Common Core State Standards for K-12 education, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, are touted by some education-watchers as a states-led effort to improve college and career readiness of high school graduates and raise students' slipping scores on international tests.

A leader behind the controversial Common Core education standards met with a group of Christian evangelical scholars this past spring. One of those scholars came away convinced the literacy standards align with the Christian tradition of learning by the word.

"The kind of careful readers the Common Core literacy standards seek to develop are exactly the kind of readers that people of a Word-based faith seek to cultivate, too: readers encouraged to develop command of textual knowledge, to ask reverent questions of the text, to rely on textual evidence making judgments and drawing conclusions, and to demonstrate these skills by producing their own skillful texts," wrote Liberty University English professor Karen Swallow Prior, in Christianity Today.

Prior was among a dozen Christian scholars to attend a two-day conference with David Coleman, president of the testing organization College Board and a backer of Common Core, to discuss the challenges and implications of the new literacy standards for people of faith.

"Despite whatever bureaucratic or pragmatic difficulties the Common Core State Standards pose (and surely, there are some), evangelicals can take heart that others share our understanding of the significance of reading," Prior wrote. "'Reading is resonant,' Coleman explained during the meeting. 'It's not important just for academic life, but for work life and spiritual life, too.'"

But many conservative opponents don't see the Common Core State Standard Initiative as friendly toward faith. They call it a federal takeover of public education — which has long been the domain of local school districts — that promotes secularism and violates religious liberty.

"Federal control will replace all curriculum decisions by state and local school boards, state legislatures, parents and even Congress ... ," Phyliss Schlafly, founder of the conservative Eagle Forum, recently wrote on the website "It's not only public schools that must obey the fed's dictates. Common Core will control the curriculum of charter schools, private schools, religious schools, Catholic schools and homeschooling."

But the National Catholic Register reported recently that Catholic schools and dioceses across the country would have to decide whether to adopt Common Core. For some schools it may be a financial decision.

"In many states, Catholic schools that get money from vouchers already are required to participate in standardized state tests to continue in a voucher program. If those states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, those standards will become the basis for state tests, replacing previous tests that were based on statewide standards."

The Deseret News recently wrote about the pros and cons — and the truths and fictions — of Common Core.

email: [email protected]