States Have Taken Control of Their Education Standards. So Why Do Some Critics Still Insist Common Core Is the Work of the Federal Gov’t?

In an opinion piece published by the Daily Caller, Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project claim passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act will test whether state leaders will “fight on the behalf of citizenry, or whether they [will] spiral into disrepute.” Common Core State Standards, the authors argue, are “demonstrably and fatally defective,” and states continue with implementation only because state leaders have fallen victim to “the political gadfly class” and “crony ‘capitalists.’”

Common Core State Standards are hardly of “defective quality,” as Robbins and McGroarty suggest. Independent analysis by the conservative-leaning Fordham Institute concluded in 2010 that the Common Core State Standards are “clearer and more rigorous” than most states’ previous academic expectations. A 2012 study by Michigan State University professor William Schmidt finds the Common Core is 90 percent aligned with standards used by top-performing countries. Even Dr. James Milgram—who Robbins and McGroarty cite heavily—declared: “The reality is that [Common Core State Standards] are better than 85 or 90 percent of the state standards they replaced. Not a little better. A lot better.”

Robbins and McGroarty indicate the recent approval of the Every Student Succeeds Act will reinvigorate backlash against the Common Core, even though states have weighed the evidence and overwhelmingly are moving forward with implementation. In a recent memo, Karen Nussle notes: “[The ESSA] forever ends what has long been an Achilles Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in state decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments.”

Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House education committee, calls the ESSA a “huge win for conservatives.” When asked if the legislation will put to rest concerns about federal involvement in Common Core, Rep. Kline added: “That is exactly correct. The federal government should not be able to tell states what standards they can or cannot adopt. If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.”

Whether critics choose to accept it or not, states have weighed the evidence and are moving forward with the Common Core. And this year most states passed a critical milestone by administering assessments aligned to the standards. As Karen Nussle wrote last year, “Based on how resilient the Common Core State Standards have proven to be…we’re unlikely to see any kind of mass movement away from this critically important initiative.”