Common Core Opponents Have Put North Dakota Schools on a Path of Disruption and Uncertainty

On Tuesday, State Superintendent Kristen Baesler announced North Dakota will create a new set of education standards to replace the Common Core, the Bismarck Tribune reports. The Grand Forks Herald notes the move comes amid criticism Common Core State Standards allow “an overreaching federal government to make decisions better left to the state.” The new learning goals will be “written by North Dakotans, for North Dakotans,” Baesler said, an apparent nod to such erroneous claims.

By giving in to opponents’ smear campaigns, North Dakota officials are following in the tracks of Oklahoma, where repeal-and-replace efforts created disruption in classrooms and produced academic standards inferior to the Common Core. The decision creates real uncertainty for educators and students and could undo years of work preparing for the Common Core.

A recent white paper by the Collaborative for Student Success explains the outcomes from each of the three states to replace the Common Core—Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina—reaffirm it is impossible to develop education standards that fully prepare students for college and careers, and that bear no resemblance to Common Core State Standards.

“The experiences from those three states make clear a lesson for lawmakers elsewhere considering a similar course of action: Replacing the Common Core State Standards invariably leads to either modest adjustments and renaming—effectively “rebranding” the Common Core (as in both Indiana and South Carolina)—or, academic standards that are inferior to the Common Core (as in Oklahoma).”

“It turns out there are certain skills all students need to master to become ready for college or a career, whether they live in Indiana, South Carolina or any of the 40 states using the Common Core,” an analysis by the Collaborative explains. “And, to some lawmakers’ dismay, it happens that these goals are well-reflected in Common Core Standards.”

In a best case scenario, North Dakota will use this moment to build on the Common Core framework, as the standards are designed and as many states have done through review processes. Achieving that outcome will require policymakers to put aside anti-Common Core rhetoric, which has largely drowned out honest debate about the value of rigorous academic expectations.

North Dakota leaders must decide whether they will let misleading claims about the Common Core to put the state’s students and teachers at a disadvantage to their peers across the country.