Michigan Lawmakers should be wary of politically-driven calls to replace Common Core

Writing about legislation to repeal Michigan’s Common Core Standards, Detroit News columnist Ingrid Jacques argues, “It’s not that crazy of an idea.” Michigan officials can producer stronger learning goals, Jacques contends, that don’t pose a “serious threat to state and local education authorities”—a mischaracterization leveled against the Common Core by opponents.

Lawmakers should be leery of yielding to politically-driven calls to replace the Common Core State Standards. “It is virtually impossible to produce a set of K-12 academic standards that both bear no resemblance to Common Core, and adequately prepare students for college and career,” Karen Nussle cautioned last year—a view substantiated by state activity.

Only three states—Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina—have taken the ill-advised course of replacing the Common Core. In each instance, the resulting standards have either closely resembled the content of Common Core State Standards, or, lack the rigor and quality of the Common Core.

“The experience from those three states make clear a lesson for lawmakers elsewhere considering a similar course of action,” a white paper by the Collaborative for Student Success states. “Replacing the Common Core State Standards invariably leads to either modest adjustments and renaming—effectively ‘rebranding’ the Common Core (as in both Indiana and South Carolina)—or, academic standards that are inferior to the Common Core (as in Oklahoma).”

An earlier analysis by the Collaborative, produced shortly after Oklahoma decided to replace the Common Core, noted the move set schools “on a rocky path of disruption, uncertainty and internal turmoil.” “While other states are working to provide parents and teachers with better tools to measure student development toward college- and career-readiness, the future for Oklahoma’s academic standards – and its students – is less certain.”

To be sure, most states are raising classroom expectations by implementing rigorous education standards and high-quality assessments. A study by Achieve this spring found 26 states significantly closed their “Honesty Gap,” providing more accurate information about student readiness.

Another study by researchers at Harvard University reinforces those findings. “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,” the report concludes.

“States should really be commended for starting to be more transparent with parents and educators about how their kids are doing,” Sandra Boyd, chief operating officer at Achieve, said earlier this year. “It really is the first step in improving outcomes.”

While other states are making progress by continuing to review and build on the Common Core framework—exactly as the standards were designed—Michigan now risks taking a step backwards. Lawmakers should resist political pressures and instead use the Common Core to establish a high baseline for schools that fully prepares students for college and careers.