Are High Standards Working in States That Adopted Them?


Steve Hansen, a columnist for the Quay County Sun, argues that assessment results “for kids steeped in Common Core education” are down compared to students in states that did not adopt the standards, which he alleges is evidence that the standards have not delivered on their promise.

Hansen using old data, so his conclusions are incorrect (we debunked the 2015 Brookings report cited by Hansen here). Results from this year’s state assessments – which are aligned to higher education standards – show that students in most states made significant improvements in math and English language arts proficiency. These findings suggest that higher standards are helping more students achieve to higher levels.

“While there are numerous factors that affect student scores, and it is still too early to make definitive declarations, the 2016 assessments suggest that the promise of higher academic standards – whatever they may be called – is working,” Jim Cowen explains in a recent memo.

Hansen’s suggestion that states create new education standards starting from scratch is a dangerous proposal. Oklahoma – the only state to shift from high standards back to its old, inferior learning goals – should serve as a cautionary tale. The state created disruption and uncertainty for schools, and ultimately put students at a disadvantage to their peers across the country, according to independent analysis.

Meanwhile, most states have raised the bar for schools. A study by Harvard University notes: “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.”

That was always the purpose of the Common Core – to set a floor, not a ceiling, of high expectations that states could continue to build on. Most states continue to do just that, which aligns with parents’ support for high, comparable learning goals that prepare their children for college and careers.

Hansen says states and districts should continue to review their standards and make improvements. We agree. States must continue to raise the bar for students to ensure all children have access to an education that fully prepares them for success after high school. However, the idea that they will be better off towards that goal by turning back on high standards is misguided.