Correcting the Record: Common Core State Standards Set Rigorous, Age-Appropriate Learning Goals

Because Common Core State Standards were not implemented incrementally, they must either be inappropriately difficult for students already in their academic careers, or renege on their promise of increasing rigor, Alexander Hoffman argues in an opinion piece published by Education Week. “If the Common Core…is actually what it was advertised to be, then rolling it out all at once inevitably undermines it at the higher grades. That undermining begins as early as first or second grade, and gets worse each year.”

Hoffman’s analogy—which he admits does not do justice to the complexity of the subject—ignores that Common Core State Standards were developed by educators and experts to ensure age-appropriate learning goals that prepare students to become college- and career-ready. Hoffman also overlooks the fact that implementing standards incrementally (especially starting in the early grades) would put an entire generation students at a disadvantage by giving them less time – or in some cases, no time at all – with the standards before they graduated.

A 2014 paper by the National Association for the Education of Young Children notes the educators and experts who wrote the Common Core State Standards “started by defining what students should know and be able to do by the time they finished high school. The developers then wrote grade-level progressions to build solid foundations for each of these expectations.”

Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, has also addressed the myth that Common Core State Standards are ill-suited for students:

“The bottom line is that ‘developmentally inappropriate’ is too often used as a shut-down phrase, one that adds little to debate or understanding. If we know where we want kids to be at the end of 13 years of schooling, delaying learning is the intellectual equivalent of a balloon payment on a mortgage. Sooner or later, it’s got to be paid up.”

Common Core State Standards do set rigorous learning goals for students. They also give educators full control over how best to help students meet those targets. In 2013, Cindy Long wrote for the National Education Association that the Common Core is good for students because “ratchets up rigor,” “gives students a deep dive,” and “puts creativity back in the classroom.”

As one Massachusetts high-school math teacher puts it: “Common Core streamlines content, and with less to cover, I can enrich the experience, which gives my students a greater understanding.”