High Standards Going the ‘Way of the Metric System’? Not Likely


“Americans have a problem with standards,” columnist Tim Bryce posits on News Talk Florida. A “rugged individualism,” Bryce contends, is why parents are now in “revolt” against the Common Core. “I’m afraid Common Core will go the way of the metric system in this country.”

Bryce’s bold, and unfortunately misinformed prediction ignores the fact states have overwhelmingly embraced rigorous education standards. “Six years in, the debate over high, comparable standards has subsided. Predictions of widespread repeal have failed to materialize,” Jim Cowen noted earlier this year.

Over the past six years most states have raised the baseline for student achievement, and matched those expectations with high quality assessments. 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.”

It’s also a pretty bold claim Bryce makes that Americans roundly don’t like standards. Nearly every profession, from doctors to engineers to chefs and just about everything in between, shares criteria that guide work within that field. It makes sense that students should have clear expectations that define the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at high levels of learning, and ultimately in the path they choose after high school.

Bryce also mischaracterized states’ work to raise the bar for students as a government program. “The government is doing a pathetic job of implementing and selling [the Common Core] to the public, hence more states are withdrawing from the program.” However, for the second consecutive year, no states have passed full-scale repeal of the Common Core, and of the 45 states to initially adopt the standards, only one—Oklahoma—has reverted back to inferior learning goals.

What’s more, the Common Core State Standards initiative was never a government effort, as Bryce suggests. The standards were developed by educators and experts from across the country. The federal government played no role in that process. States voluntarily adopted the standards, and they continue to lead implementation efforts.

Most states continue to review, refine and build on the Common Core framework, exactly as the standards were designed. As Karen Nussle explains, the Common Core was always meant to set a floor, not a ceiling, for student achievement. States have begun to build up from that groundwork, and many have renamed their standards to reflect their ownership.

That work aligns well with parents’ attitudes. Contrary to Bryce’s assertion, the public strongly supports high, comparable education standards, no matter what moniker is attached to them.  Two-thirds of parents favor college- and career-ready education standards, up two points from last year, according to Education Next’s latest annual public opinion survey.

“It’s time to stop fighting about the words ‘Common Core’ and move forward,” Jim Cowen notes. “States that have not wavered in their belief that rigorous classroom expectations matched with high-quality assessments will improve student outcomes are now seeing the rewards of their perseverance.”