New York Should Reaffirm Its Commitment to Rigorous, Comparable Education Standards

Revisions to New York’s standards amount to “what is ‘essentially just a rebranding of the Common Core,’” argues Hofstra University instructor Alan Singer on the Huffington Post. Singer cites a laundry list of supposed problems with the standards: they stress what is easy to test, not what is important to know; tests drive curriculum; curriculum decisions are surrendered to publishing companies; and the standards are “devoid of content and understanding.”

Citing opt-out proponent Jeanette Deutermann, the piece concludes, “The only acceptable changes to our children’s curriculum is a complete overhaul.” The opt-out community objects to the existence of rigorous academic standards regardless of what they are called, because they object to measuring progress against these standards using state assessments.

Don’t be fooled by Common Core opponents like Singer trying to mask their true intentions. States like New York chose to adopt rigorous, comparable academic expectations, and chose to launch a review process to build on those standards.  Whether or not New York has fully achieved that goal is yet to be determined, but it’s clear that they have undertaken a thoughtful standards review process. Critics of standards and assessments have shown that they really don’t care if the standards revisions went too far or not far enough, they are always going to object.

By implementing high standards and high-quality assessments that measure progress toward those expectations, New York is providing parents and teachers with accurate information about student growth. The latest Honesty Gap analysis identifies New York as one of the “Most Honest” states for reporting proficiency rates that closely mirror NAEP.

By contrast, Oklahoma sought to appease critics by replacing its education standards. That decision created disruption and uncertainty for students and teachers, only to produce inferior learning goals – which an independent analysis indicates will put students at a disadvantage.

Similarly, New York’s commitment to rigorous learning goals comports with parents’ desires for their children. Polling shows parents strongly support academic standards that fully prepare their kids for college and careers, no matter what label is attached.

“It’s time to stop fighting about the words ‘Common Core’ and move forward,” Jim Cowen explains. “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 is what New York is working to do. “The state Department of Education is doing the right thing” by making revisions but keeping the bar high for students, the New York Post editorial board writes. As Newsday notes, it appears as though, “Much of the revision involves streamlining, reorganizing or rewording.”

Pointing out that New York’s largest teachers’ union endorsed the changes, the Albany Times Union editorial board writes that opponents should put to rest the politicization. “Look at what that polarization has done in Washington, forever alternating between impasse and crisis. A first-rate education system cannot function like that. Teachers and students should not be pawns in ideological tug-o-wars.”

If there were any concerns of federal involvement, which Singer seems to imply, those are addressed by the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law permanently replaces No Child Left Behind and prohibits federal authorities from meddling in state’s education decisions – including over standards and assessments.

Policymakers, parents and teachers should resist opponents’ calls to change course and continue to insist on setting expectations high.