Attacks on Common Core May Be Popular, But It’s a Moot Point: States Are Moving On

Criticism of the Common Core State Standards has become popular in political races across New York, the Schenectady Daily Gazette reports. In interviews last week, all of the candidates vying for two State Senate seats criticized New York’s Common Core-based standards or associated assessments, even though each stopped short of proposing any legislative fixes.

Such criticism isn’t unique to New York, either. Across the country, many candidates have made attacks on the Common Core a centerpiece of their campaigns.

Claims that the Common Core was forced on states, in addition to being misinformed, ignore the fact that the issue is already resolved. The Every Student Succeeds Act ensures – once and for all – that states and school districts have full control over their education standards and assessments. And, overwhelmingly, states are moving ahead with high, comparable education standards and high-quality assessments.

In that regard, the Common Core has fulfilled its purpose. Common Core was “always meant to set a floor, not a ceiling, for student achievement,” Jim Cowen explains. A Harvard study 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.”

Now states are moving forward. Most have reviewed their standards, made changes and renamed their learning goals, all to ensure they meet their students’ needs. In fact, only one state—Oklahoma—has reverted back to inferior academic expectations.

That commitment to raising the bar for classrooms fits well with parents’ attitudes. A recent poll by Education Next finds that two-thirds of parents support rigorous, comparable education standards, no matter what label is attached—a two-point increase over past years.

“It’s time to stop fighting about the words ‘Common Core,’” Cowen writes in a recent memo. “No matter what label policymakers attach to them, parents and educators support rigorous, consistent education standards that fully prepare students for the challenges of college and to compete in a global economy. Recognizing that reality, state leaders have moved past the rhetoric.”

Assessment results this year reinforce that states are on the right path. By and large, those that have put their full support behind implementation of high standards and high-quality assessments have experienced improvements in student performance. Conversely, those that have sought to appease critics by sacrificing assessments have created disruption and uncertainty for schools, and may very well end up with weaker tests.

State leaders, and voters, now have a decision: Will they continue to support rigorous academic expectations and meaningful assessments, or will they revert back and go the way of Oklahoma. Evidence makes clear that states are on the right course. To turn back would be a mistake. Instead of disparaging the Common Core, candidates for public office would be wise to articulate a message of high standards and high-quality assessments—which is exactly what the Common Core started.