Common Core has Prevailed Again

On July 1, 2015, Karen Nussle, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success, released the following memo showing how the Common Core State Standards continue to prevail across the country:

Five years after the states initiated the creation of Common Core State Standards and then voluntarily adopted them, the debate over whether the standards will survive appears firmly settled: the efforts of Common Core opponents to derail the standards en masse have failed to take root in state after state.

As of today, state legislatures in 35 states have adjourned, marking the end – for all intents and purposes – of the 2015 state legislative season. So far this legislative session:

  • Zero states passed a full-scale repeal.
  • Three states (Tennessee, Louisiana, and New Jersey) initiated the kind of reviews that in other states have resulted in little-to-no meaningful deviation from the standards.
  • In at least 17 states, repeal legislation failed to move or was defeated outright: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia.
  • In both Wisconsin and Louisiana – two states whose governors have presidential ambitions – the governor will likely have to settle for a legislative compromise well short of the full repeal they called for.
  • In New Jersey, Gov. Christie is both continuing with the CCSS-aligned assessment, PARCC, and the extent of actual change to the standards appears limited.
  • In key presidential nominating states, anti-Common Core legislation this year either failed to advance (Iowa and Nevada), or was vetoed (New Hampshire.)

That is a remarkable development, given that across the 50 legislatures this year, there was a 75% increase in the number of bills filed related to college and career readiness – 427 in 2014 vs. 742 this year, according to the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL).

It is more remarkable still in light of these additional facts: 102 bills were filed this year mandating a review of the Common Core Standards; there were an additional 49 legislative attempts to specifically revoke the standards; and, 18 bills introduced to undermine the standards by giving individual school districts to option to opt out.

The credit for these victories belongs to the vast coalitions of educators, parents, civil rights organizations, business, military, and faith leaders within these states who have been relentless in their passion for improving the future for kids in this country.  These vast, broad-based coalitions proved more powerful than the opposition because the facts were on their side. The Arizona Public Engagement Task Force, Alabama GRIT, Climb Higher Colorado and Geaux Higher, to name just a few, have led decisive, admirable campaigns to support higher standards and assessments that are transparent and honest in measuring student progress. Thanks to them, and barring any major unforeseen developments in the next few weeks, Common Core State Standards will once again emerge from intense legislative scrutiny virtually unscathed.

As we have said before, the resiliency of policy embodied in the Common Core State Standards is attributable to several factors. To begin with, while the politics around the moniker “Common Core” may be polarizing, there continues to be broad public support for more rigorous, voluntary K-12 standards in math and English that are comparable across state lines.

Furthermore, opponents of Common Core continue to rely on demonstrably untrue talking points as they seek to derail the standards. Activists routinely characterize the Standards falsely as a “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach” to education. They erroneously describe it as “a national curriculum” that was “forced” on states. Serious policymakers are increasingly separating facts from demagoguery.

Finally, opponents of Common Core aren’t offering an alternative set of academic standards that will adequately prepare kids for college or career. Policymakers are finding it is nearly impossible to produce high quality standards that bear no resemblance to Common Core.

After enduring three intense years of political and legislative assault by activists, Common Core State Standards have proven their resiliency.   They have been litigated and re-litigated in nearly every state in the Union.  They aren’t perfect, so just as was originally intended by the Governors and state superintendents, states are taking the “model” standards and making them their own, by making changes and improvements.

With higher standards in place across the country it’s time to ensure that parents have real information about how students are performing and that all parties are held accountable to ensuring the high school diploma actually means graduates are ready for all the choices and opportunities available to them.