An open letter from Parents Against Common Core encourages President-elect Donald Trump to end “Common Core support at the federal level” and return “responsibility for common education directly to the individual 50 states.”
Parents’ efforts, the letter claims, “have caused Common Core to be either repealed or modified via law and/or policy all across the nation.” But the incoming administration should “scale back and eventually cease the role of writing and dictating education policy from the federal level to the individual states.”
The group’s arguments are largely moot. Congress already prohibited the federal government from incentivizing or pressuring states to adopt any specific set of education standards or assessments through the Every Student Succeeds Act. In fact, the law requires states to demonstrate ownership of their learning goals as part of an accountability plan.
Congressman John Kline, head of the House education committee, called the ESSA a “huge win for conservatives.” He added, “The federal government should not be able to tell states what standards they can or cannot adopt.”
What’s more, the president has no control over states’ education standards because they are determined and implemented by state and local officials. There are no federal mandates requiring states to use the Common Core – or any other set of standards. In March, the Daily Caller reported, “It’s not possible for Trump, as president, to repeal or otherwise get rid of [the Common Core], because there’s nothing to repeal.”
The only way President-elect Trump could force states to replace their education standards is through executive requirements or federal incentives, which are the very criticisms many have had to high, comparable education standards in the first place. It would require usurping states’ decision-making powers, which runs counter to the intent of the ESSA – and the argument of the letter.
Overwhelmingly, states and school districts have redoubled their commitment to high, comparable education standards and high-quality assessments. In fact, only one state – Oklahoma – has reverted back to inferior education standards. Instead, most states are continuing to review and tailor their learning goals to ensure they meet students’ needs.
That aligns with the original intent of the Common Core. The standards were always meant to set a rigorous baseline of academic expectations on which states could build on further. In that regard, the initiative has achieved its purpose. A Harvard University 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.”
Noticeably, several of the signers of the letter are from states that have already made adjustments to or replaced their education standards, like Oklahoma and Indiana. It is difficult to see why these individuals continue to worry their states are somehow at risk from the Common Core.
The reality is that states have taken control of their education standards. Most continue to keep the bar high for students and to continue to adjust their learning goals to meet their students’ needs. Across the country, those efforts are having an impact. This year, a majority of states made significant improvements in student proficiency in math and English language arts.
New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera notes that success reinforces that states are on the right track and should not turn back. “Under ESSA, states have been given broad new authority over the steps they take to produce better outcomes. These findings send a clear message that it’s a mistake to retreat from high standards or go back to low-quality tests.”