Despite the Every Student Succeeds Act prohibiting the federal government from “telling states which standards they can and can’t use,” Education Secretary-nominee Betsy DeVos “doubled down” on her promise to end Common Core over the weekend. She went on to say that “it won’t be Washington, D.C., that unlocks [student] potential… The answer is local control, and it’s listening to parents, and it’s giving more choices.” She went on to say that she supports “letting states set their own high standards.”
As Education Week noted, ESSA prohibits the federal government from rolling over states’ education decisions. The law was specifically designed to prevent what DeVos and others – albeit mistakenly – call a “federalized” set of standards. In fact, as states continue developing their own ESSA implementation plans, there is no wholesale movement to repeal and replace the higher academic standards.
The reason: those standards are leading to better educational outcomes for students with proficiency in math and reading increasing in a majority of states this year. Nationwide, math scores among third-grade students, who have spent most of their academic careers learning to meet higher standards, increased nearly four points this year over last, on average.
While there remain entrenched foes, most people have come to realize that returning to a system that failed students will not only set education back, it involves sizeable costs, time constraints and chaos in classrooms. The three states that took such actions (Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina) each offers their own cautionary lesson for policymakers elsewhere: Replacing rigorous, comparable education standards creates disruption and uncertainty for schools to ultimately end up with demonstrably inferior standards.
As Shakespeare wrote – and as students will study under the course of higher academic standards – a “rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” DeVos calls for local control, listening to parents and letting states set the direction for their students and schools. ESSA contains the blueprints for all of that to happen successfully.