Just the Facts: Dispelling Myths about High Standards and High-Quality, Aligned Assessments
From the beginning, misinformation about the high standards (including the Common Core) and high-quality, aligned assessments has been circulated by opponents on both sides of the aisle. Below we break down some of the most common myths – and provide the facts.
MYTH: Common Core is a federal, national curriculum.
FACT: The Common Core State Standards are neither federal, nor is it a curriculum.
The Common Core was developed by educators, experts and state leaders from across the country. The federal government played no role in their development. No federal officials served on the working teams or feedback groups, nor were any federal funds used to support the creation process at any point.
Unfortunately, in 2010 the Obama administration made adoption of “a common set of K-12 standards” a factor in the application for Race to the Top funds—which some interpreted as an endorsement of the Common Core. (It’s important to remember that work on the Common Core began long before President Obama was in office, and before this grant program was created. Both the National Governors Association and CCSSO also opposed the inclusion.) Additionally, adoption of these standards accounted for less than 10 percent of a state’s application, and states could satisfy the requirement without adopting the Common Core specifically. Moreover, nearly half the states adopted and continue to implement the Common Core despite having never been awarded Race to the Top funds.
The Common Core is also a set of academic standards – not a curriculum. They detail what students should know, and by when, but do not dictate how teachers should teach it. In fact, state and local educators are overwhelmingly creating and sharing their own materials aligned to the Common Core. According to a 2014 report by the Center for Education Policy, two-thirds of school districts report their teachers are designing curricular materials aligned to the Common Core.
MYTH: High, Comparable Standards Restrict Teachers’ Ability to Lead Their Class
FACT: High standards do not “force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction,” 21 State Teachers of the Year explain. In fact, “teachers have greater flexibility to design their classroom lessons—and can, for the first time, take advantage of the best practices from great teachers in other states.”
Teachers have been so creative, that we’ve compiled a few of our favorite examples:
- To engage her math students, California teacher Elizabeth Little showed them the practical side of math and used her state’s high standards to teach students to make a banana piano.
- New York teacher Lauren Leigh Kelley uses hip hop in her literacy curriculum to connect the content to her student’s backgrounds and inspire them to write.
- Rochester, New York’s Courtney Larkin found a creative way to help her students connect with real world application of math concepts, using ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
- Teachers at Los Medanos Elementary school in California’s Bay Area are rapping, developing games and getting kids up and moving – all to better master mathematical concepts.
- Erica Mariola, a kindergarten teacher in New Orleans, used bowling to teach her students math and writing.
MYTH: The Federal Government Is Collecting Reams of Data on Students Through Tests Aligned to Common Core.
FACT: States’ education standards (Common Core or otherwise) have no impact on what student information they collect, how they collect it or how that information is used. In fact, if a state were to repeal its education standards (whether it uses the Common Core or any other set of learning goals), it would have no impact on its data collection policies.
“While such Orwellian predictions are effective in raising alarm, they simply aren’t true,” Rob McKenna, the former attorney general of Washington State, explains. “I encourage parents to read [their state’s education standards]. They will find no mention of data-collection mandates… Standards do nothing more than establish rigorous learning goals at each grade level that ensure all public-school children are held to levels that prepare them for higher levels of learning and ultimately for college or a career.”
Certainly, student information is sensitive. It should never be used to single out a student or to predetermine a young person’s success. That is why nearly all data from assessments on student performance is aggregated and scrubbed of personally identifiable information, which prevents it from being traced back to an individual student.
In fact, federal and state laws explicitly prohibit schools and institutions from releasing data that could jeopardize a child’s privacy. These laws ensure only parents or a legal guardian can access their child’s academic records. Policymakers must be resolute in upholding such protections. Educators and parents, too, share a responsibility to hold officials accountable.
MYTH: Educators and Parents Were Not Involved in Drafting the Common Core
FACT: Nearly 10,000 comments from parents, teachers and other stakeholders were received during the process of drafting and adopting the Common Core State Standards. Academic standards regularly undergo review processes in states, and as states have reviewed and augmented their standards, even more comments have been received.
MYTH: The Common Core Is Removing Classic Literature from Classrooms, is Rewriting History, and Is Indoctrinating Our Students.
FACT: The Common Core calls for a balance of literary and informational texts. In simple English, that means students should be exposed to both classic and contemporary literature and readings from, say, daily newspapers or news magazine. That way, they learn how to extrapolate information from both fact and fiction – something that critics of high standards seem to struggle with. The Common Core does encourage teachers to use more informational texts as students progress through high school, but that it because college professors and, eventually, employers, will expect them to be able to read articles, research studies, legal cases, etc. and conduct analysis relevant to a class or professional situation. Students need to learn how to present ideas, arguments and sound conclusions instead of book reports. In this way, high standards are preparing students for success in life.
Comparable education standards are not a means to rewrite history or a tool of the federal government to indoctrinate students with certain ideologies. A PolitiFact analysis that considered the claim that comparable education standards’ purpose is to instill religious or political beliefs a “Pants on Fire” rating. Standards outline “the knowledge and skills students are required to have in each grade, from kindergarten through high school, not the curriculum schools use to teach those standards,” the report explains. “That’s a far cry from attempting to instill particular religious or political beliefs.”
What’s more, Common Core State Standards only cover math and English language arts. They say nothing of Social Studies or History (or Science or the Arts, for that matter). It’s hard, then, to understand how rigorous, comparable education standards pose a risk to the integrity of how U.S. History instruction.
MYTH: Momentum is Building Among States to Ditch Common Core State Standards
FACT: Overwhelmingly, states and districts remain committed to high, comparable education standards. “The debate over high, comparable standards has subsided. Predictions of widespread repeal have failed to materialize,” Collaborative Executive Director Jim Cowen wrote in May. “If there were any question remaining, it seems to be firmly resolved: states are sticking with higher standards.”
Instead, states are reviewing their education standards and assessments, and tailoring them to their students’ needs – which is exactly how the Common Core was designed. The standards were always meant to set a floor, not a ceiling, for student growth. In that regard, the Common Core has achieved its purpose.
A Harvard study observes, “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.” John White, Louisiana’s state superintendent, previously articulated that point. “We have accomplished what we needed to accomplish,” he explained in 2015. “States have adopted higher standards, states have tests that measure those standards and they’re comparable, so there can be an honest baseline… That is a fantastic success for each state and for America and its children.”
Need more information on crazy rumors you’re hearing about high standards? Visit thecommoncore.com.
Have a new myth you’d like to share with us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!