Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the Common Core Confusion
On March 14, 2016 Karen Nussle, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success, weighed in on Common Core which came up in the March 10 GOP debate:
To the casual observer watching last Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, it must have seemed that K-12 curriculum in America is tightly managed by federal bureaucrats, and Common Core State Standards are persistently being forced on states against their will.
Unfortunately, these aren’t new messages from the candidates. But what we did see this time – for the first time – was CNN’s Jake Tapper inserting the facts, “The Common Core standards were developed by the states. States and localities voluntarily adopt them, and they come up with their own curricula to meet those standards. So when you say education by Washington D.C., what do you mean?”
It’s bewildering that many of the candidates continue to insist wrongly that Common Core can be repealed at the local level by executive fiat from Washington, D.C.
The truth is the next president will have little-to-no ability to influence state and local decisions around education thanks to a landmark education law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— approved by Congress with broad bipartisan support and signed into law in December of 2015. This new law prohibits Washington from coercing, incentivizing or otherwise encouraging states to adopt specific standards, curriculum, and assessments. Importantly, the law also prohibits Washington from encouraging states to abandon specific standards, curriculum, and assessments.
Today’s Common Core Reality
Common Core may be a convenient punching bag for politicians, but the rhetorical jabs aren’t having an impact at the state level: 43 of the original 46 states that adopted Common Core continue to have the standards in place. Many states are reviewing, tweaking and even renaming the standards, but they are resisting pressure to revert to lower standards – not because Washington is compelling them, but because the standards raise the bar for students and are starting to show real results.
State and local officials have continued to refine and build on them to ensure they meet students’ needs—exactly as the standards were designed.
Since 2010, at least 18 states have taken steps to review, rebrand or revise their Common Core standards — exactly as was originally intended. But the fact remains that it is almost impossible to produce a set of K-12 math and English standards that bear no resemblance to the Common Core.
Last year, 17 states (including some of the most conservative-leaning in the country) voted down or failed to move forward legislation to replace the Common Core, and none passed full-scale repeal legislation. This is because the standards are working and state and local leaders see the benefit of having college and career ready standards for their students.
The Bottom Line
No president can force states to repeal Common Core without violating ESSA, which expressly prohibits the federal government from meddling in local education matters.
And since it’s the president’s job is to enforce laws, it’s critically important that anyone running for president fully understands federal law as it pertains to education standards and local control.