Common Core ‘Free Fall’? Actually, 2015 Was a Good Year for Rigorous Education Standards and High-Quality Assessments

Under the banner “Common Core Support Descends into Free Fall,” a recent Education World article proclaims, “This was not the year for Common Core.” Massachusetts “will be completely scrapping Common Core assessments,” the article claims, and New York “will be pulling back” following “unfavorable findings” from the Common Core Task Force launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The article completely misconstrues the reality in states; in fact, 2015 was a good year for the Common Core.

After five years and two national elections, all but one state—Oklahoma—continue to implement Common Core State Standards or a nearly identical set of learning goals. This year zero states passed legislation for a full-scale repeal of Common Core State Standards, despite a 75 percent increase in bills related to college- and career-ready standards. That’s a big departure from the opponents’ warnings, which predicted a mass exodus away from the Common Core among states.

The Education World article misinterprets decisions in Massachusetts and New York to support its claim. Massachusetts officials did not scrap assessments aligned to the state’s Common Core Standards, as the article suggests. “[The national media has] inaccurately described Massachusetts as ‘abandoning’ the Common Core and PARCC. We have not abandoned either one,” Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester clarified last month in the New York Times.

Instead, Massachusetts will pursue an independent assessment that will incorporate elements of both PARCC and MCAS. “These announcements are part of the evolution of the testing landscape that gives states greater options to deliver a 21st century, superior quality assessments focused on the skills that matter most for success in college and careers,” Karen Nussle explains in a recent memo.

Similarly, in New York, a review committee made clear the state should continue “building upon the foundation established by the Common Core Standards” and “maintain the key instructional shifts set forth in the Common Core.” A Center for American Progress study found that more than 70 percent of feedback on the state’s Common Core Standards was positive.

As states move forward with implementation of high, comparable education standards, most passed an important milestone this year by administering tests aligned to those learning goals. Louisiana Superintendent John White put it well: “states have adopted higher standards, states have tests that measure those standards and they’re comparable, so there can be an honest baseline…and that is a fantastic success for each state and for America and its children.”