Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Francine Menashy

Second Advisor

Tricia Kress

Third Advisor

Patricia Paugh


This critical study investigated the ideological nature of official U.S. policy discourse situating the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a recently developed set of “high-quality” ELA and mathematics standards (2010), purportedly designed through a “state-led” effort to improve student achievement and “college- and career-readiness.” As part of a national trend towards standards-based school reform that has accelerated since the release of A Nation at Risk (1983), the CCSS has recently achieved wide national comment, debate and criticism. For their part, critical scholars have problematized the wider policy landscape of reform in which the Common Core is situated, having defined the former as excessively “neoliberal” in spirit. They see a “free market” ideology infiltrating both school practices and discourses that emphasizes corporate-oriented values like competition, self-interest, and profit-making at the expense of democratic and humanistic ideals.

This study sought to determine whether this critical position could be empirically validated. The study considered: to what extent is a neoliberal ideology animating the Common Core’s policy field? This question was approached through a comparative methodology. The study first thematically classified the discourse of a Common Core policy sample according to its own salient meaning-oriented features. The resulting classifications were subsequently compared to a framework of neoliberal and critical-humanistic themes, respectively. The study sought to determine the extent to which the Common Core’s own categories matched the building blocks of either a democratic or a neoliberal belief system. The Common Core was found to be expressive of many neoliberal themes, though a salient critical-humanistic motif of social justice was noted. The findings suggest that critical scholars may wish to reconsider the ideology informing their current school policies and practices. Through critique, educators might be better able to voice appreciation for the values in school policies with which they align and challenge those towards which they feel little affinity or allegiance.


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