Correcting the Record: Has Indiana Really ‘Refused’ the Common Core?

In a letter to the Indianapolis Star, high school student Sierra Lehman says she is grateful “Indiana is refusing” Common Core State Standards. “The main issue with Common Core Standards is the emphasis on testing,” the letter states. “Tests themselves don’t adequately measure skills, but instead one’s test-taking ability… [Common Core] requires all students to succeed through the exact same teaching style.”

To start, the Common Core State Standards do not dictate a particular teaching style, let alone require it. Rather, the standards create greater room for creativity and flexibility in the classroom.

The standards emerged from a consensus that the patchwork of education standards, which could vary widely from state to state and even district to district, created wide discrepancies in how well schools prepared young people for high levels of learning.

After voluntarily adopting the Common Core, most states began to implement high-quality student assessments. The purpose isn’t testing for the sake of testing, as some students like Lehman might interpret it, but rather to ensure that higher classroom expectations are helping students achieve their full potential—and so teachers and parents can provide support when and where young people need it.

Certainly, many students may feel overwhelmed by the volume of tests they face. But unlike old “bubble tests,” assessments aligned to the Common Core are designed to provide more constructive feedback, which could help states cut back on the number of tests they administer. And unlike old exams, these new assessments align closely with classroom instruction, reducing pressures to “teach to the test.”

Each year students across all types of colleges borrow an extra $380 million to take courses covering material that should have been mastered in high school, NPR reported this month. Nationwide, students and families spend nearly $1.5 billion on remedial education. And it’s not just at-risk students. Forty-five percent of students who place into remedial courses come from middle- and high-income families, and students at private colleges spend an average of $12,000 extra to study material they should have learned in high school.

By ensuring all students are on track to graduate high school prepared for college or a career, Common Core State Standards steer students away from those troubles. The standards are built on the best available evidence of what students need to know and be able to do to thrive after high school graduation.

That’s one reason most states continue to build on the Common Core framework. Even Indiana, which replaced the Common Core, ended up with learning goals that closely resemble the Common Core. As a white paper by the Collaborative for Student Success points out, “Replacing the Common Core State Standards invariably leads to either modest adjustments and renaming…or, academic standards that are inferior to the Common Core.”

Students like Lehman deserve a lot of credit for taking an active role in their education. They want to get the most out of their K-12 experience. While it’s difficult to dig through the misinformation and hyperbole that have clouded honest debate, all the evidence suggests Common Core State Standards are creating an environment that will help all student achieve their full potential.