Rigorous, Consistent Education Standards Are Necessary to Ensure All Students Have Access to a Good Education

In a piece published by Truth-Out.org, Jesse Hagopian, associate editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, claims corporate education reforms like the Common Core “have badly damaged education for all kids and have had particularly harmful effects on Black and Brown communities.” Such initiatives, Hagopian argues, “are in reality efforts to turn the schoolhouse into an ATM for corporate America.”

Claims like Hagopian’s ignore the fact that the very purpose of high, comparable education standards is to ensure all students are held to expectations that fully prepare them for college and careers.

The Common Core was developed by educators and experts from across the country to address the patchwork of academic expectations that varied wildly from state to state. States have continued to build on that baseline and make adjustments to ensure their standards meet student needs.

“The last two years have witnessed the largest jump in state standards since they were established,” a Harvard study notes. “The Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.”

“By raising standards for everyone,” explains Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, schools “can help bridge the education achievement gap and create a new reality in which all students are adequately prepared to excel regardless of family income, ethnicity or where they live.”

Separately, Morial makes clear that states’ efforts to raise classroom expectations are not part of a “top-down, ‘Big Brother,’ federal program” or a scheme to commercialize schools. “It doesn’t serve our nation or our future when some children are systemically less prepared than others, nor does it serve our nation to have this issue tossed onto a political battlefield where it becomes a casualty of partisanship and deliberate misinformation,” Morial says.

The fact that high standards better ensure all students are able to graduate high school fully prepared for college and career may explain why communities of color strongly support them. Polling shows families favor college- and career-ready standards, regardless of what label is attached, and support is even higher among African Americans and Latinos.

By the same token, high-quality assessments are vital to ensure parents and teachers have accurate, actionable information to support their kids. And parents recognize that. Seventy percent of the public believe annual assessments are important and disapprove of opt-out efforts.

Yet, Hagopian encourages families to opt out of state exams. Quoting Seattle NAACP president Gerald Hankerson, Hagopian claims, “The opt-out movement is a vital component of the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles for social justice.”

That claim counters statements made by many civil rights leaders and organizations, who have endorsed high-quality assessments as a critical measure of student development. Last year, 12 national civil and human rights groups wrote:

“We rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children. These data are critical for understanding whether and where there is equal opportunity.”

Across the country, a growing chorus has emerged encouraging parents to “opt in” to good assessments. In New York, Reverend Al Sharpton said he is squarely behind high-quality assessments, and against the opt-out movement. “Why are we seeing students in some areas more able in math and English and reading and not in other areas? We need to be able to measure that and we need to be real clear about the educational inequality,” he explained.

By implementing high, consistent education standards and high-quality assessments, states are improving educational outcomes for all students. For policymakers and families alike, “the message should be clear,” Jim Cowen notes. “High standards and high-quality assessments best serve our students’ needs, help prepare them for college and careers, and are delivering promising results. To change course now would be a mistake.”