Writing on Town Hall, American Principles Project Senior Fellow Jane Robbins claims the U.S. Department of Education is using the #GoOpen Initiative to “push onto states Common Core-aligned online instructional materials.” The Department of Defense’s open-source Learning Registry, Robbins argues further, “threatens government control over curriculum.”
However, contrary to Robbins’ vision of a federal curriculum, state and local educators are overwhelmingly creating and sharing their own materials aligned to the Common Core. According to a 2014 report by the Center for Education Policy, two-thirds of school districts report their teachers are designing curricular materials aligned to the Common Core.
And the trend of teachers developing lesson plans and other materials has continued. A RAND Corporation study this year found that nearly all math and ELA teachers are at least somewhat reliant on materials they developed or selected themselves. Many are also turning to resources provided by EngageNY, which offer state-developed curricular materials.
Contrary to Robbins’ argument, the Common Core State Standards were developed by educators and experts from across the country absent any federal involvement. States voluntarily adopted the standards, and they continue to lead implementation efforts. Objective analyses have repeatedly rejected claims that federal authorities coerced states into adopting the Common Core, or that the standards push certain ideologies on students.
Fortunately, most state and local leaders have seen past the rhetoric and redoubled their commitment to rigorous, comparable education standards. This year, zero states have passed full-scale repeal, marking the second consecutive year in which state legislatures have voted down or failed to move forward such legislation.
“Six years in, the debate over high, comparable standards has subsided. Predictions of widespread repeal have failed to materialize,” Jim Cowen wrote recently. “If there were any question remaining, it seems to be firmly resolved: states are sticking with higher standards based on the Common Core.”
Conservatives are right to be suspicious of federal intrusion into education issues. As former Education Secretary Bill Bennett explains, federal officials have “run roughshod over individual rights and state sovereignty” in the past. But that “does not change a basic truth: Common, voluntary standards are a good, conservative policy.”
To that end, the Every Student Succeeds Act guarantees states have full autonomy over their education standards. Calling the law a “huge win for conservatives,” John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, explained: “If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.”
States’ ownership of the Common Core, coupled with the protections delivered by the Every Student Succeeds Act, ensures against a national curriculum Robbins and others frequently portend. Instead, states are reviewing and building on the Common Core framework to ensure the standards fully meet their students’ needs.
Twenty-one State Teachers of the Year put it well: “The Common Core is not a federal takeover of our schools, nor does it force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction… In fact, under the Common Core, teachers have greater flexibility to design their classroom lessons—and can, for the first time, take advantage of the best practices from great teachers in other states.”