Setting the Record Straight: Alaska and the Common Core

In a letter to the Fresno Bee, Sandy Torosian, a local parent, argues that California families should boycott assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards. “All over the country, parents are fed up with being ignored by a government education system. They are exercising a parent’s right, and even civil duty, to refuse testing.”

Torosian argues, that opt-outs and technical problems in Alaska forced policymakers to suspend assessments. But, Alaska does not administer assessments aligned to the Common Core. In fact, Alaska never adopted Common Core State Standards. Technical problems forced the state to suspend student assessments this year—but it was in no way related to the state’s education standards or high opt out numbers, as Torosian suggests.

The letter argues that parents are exercising a “civil duty” by refusing state tests. But as former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett explains, opt-out does not improve the system. “Refusing to participate in assessments puts students, parents, and teachers at a disadvantage, and it does little to address legitimate concerns about the quality and volume of state tests.”

Instead, in New York and elsewhere, a growing chorus of supporters is urging parents to “opt in” to high-quality assessments. “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?” writes Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust.

Likewise, Karen Nussle pointed out last fall, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college or a career. …For parents and educators, that should come as welcome change.”