Citing the latest annual Education Next poll, Independent Journal Review columnist Kyle Becker contends that “backers of the top-down bureaucratic program [Common Core] are losing the culture war.” Becker alleges the “standardized testing agenda” was pushed onto states “without voter input or accountability,” and the standards have “a very negative brand in the mind of many Americans.”
Quizzically, Becker then claims that a fictional test in the recently-released movie Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is code for the Common Core. “Sure, it’s called the B.L.A.A.R., but anyone familiar with education knows that the writers might as well have called it Common Core… That might be one of the most effective forms of cultural subversion of them all.”
What culture war Becker is referring to exactly, we’re not sure. But as Becker highlights, the Education Next poll shows parents strongly support high, comparable education standards that fully prepare students for college and careers – no matter what labels are attached.
“Education Next’s annual public opinion survey confirms what we’ve long suspected: it’s time to stop fighting about the words ‘Common Core’ and move forward,” explains Jim Cowen. “No matter what label policymakers attach to them, parents and educators support rigorous, consistent education standards that fully prepare students for the challenges of college and to compete in a global economy. “
That’s what state and local leaders are delivering. Overwhelmingly, states are keeping expectations high for students. In fact, only one state – Oklahoma – has reverted back to inferior standards. Instead, most states continue to tailor and build on their learning goals to ensure they meet students’ needs.
In that regard, the Common Core has achieved its purpose. As a Harvard study notes: “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.”
If any concerns about states’ ownership of their standards or accountability systems remain, they are answered by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Signed into law late last year to permanently replace No Child Left Behind, the law forever ends concerns about federal entanglement.
Washington Post columnist Lyndsey Layton noted previously that ESSA “dials back the power of the federal government when it comes to local classrooms” and marked “a profound reset of the relationship between federal and state governments.”
She adds of the law, “States, not the federal government, decide curricula teaching methods, academic standards, what to do about struggling schools and how to define success or failure.”
Importantly, states are now achieving success largely because of their commitment to set expectations high. Results from assessments aligned to higher standards, which most states administered this spring, show a majority made notable gains in math and English language arts proficiency. Some of the biggest improvements were made by third graders, who have spent most of their education learning to higher standards.
It’s difficult to understand Mr. Becker’s argument that states’ commitment to raising classroom expectations is losing a so-called cultural war. States and districts across the country have raised the bar for students, better preparing them to succeed in college and careers. Most states are now seeing the rewards of that hard work in the form of steady gains in math and reading. It’s hard to see why anyone would turn back on such gains.