Six Years Later Critics Still Haven’t Figured Out That Common Core Is Not a National Curriculum

In an interview with the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, Common Core opponent Diane Ravitch argues the standards have widened achievement gaps. “There is confusion about national standards and a national curriculum. The Common Core, for example, is both,” Ravitch claims. “It is far too specific and attempts to standardize every school in the nation…I no longer see any value in that approach.”

However, objective analysis has time and again rejected claims that the Common Core dictates what teachers teach or how they can teach it. In fact, by setting rigorous and consistent learning goals and giving local authorities full control over how best to help students achieve those targets, the Common Core fosters creativity and flexibility in the classroom.

Last year, 21 State Teachers of the Year explained: “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.”

In 2014, Karen Nussle noted that early adopters of the Common Core that put support behind implementation efforts had achieved some of the biggest academic gains in the country. Since then states have continued to build on that momentum. For example, in Tennessee college remediation rates have fallen over the last four years, and the state’s commitment to high standards may be one reason why more students are prepared for college-level coursework.

By contrast, states that have taken the ill-advised “repeal-and-replace” route have created uncertainty and disruption for their schools, only to prove such efforts invariably lead to either a “rebranding” of the Common Core, or inferior academic expectations.

Consider Oklahoma, where lawmakers replaced the Common Core in an attempt to appease opponents. An independent evaluation of the resulting standards concluded the new learning goals “fail to serve students, teachers or parents well…[and] will fail to adequately prepare Oklahoma students for postsecondary success…Worst of all, these standards will disadvantage Oklahoma students compared to their peers in other states; students in Oklahoma will be less prepared to successfully enter college and careers.”

Ravitch and other critics may continue to attack the Common Core, but most states are moving forward. “If there were any question remaining, it seems to be firmly resolved: states are sticking with higher standards based on the Common Core,” Jim Cowen wrote last month. “States have weighed the evidence and opted to build on the framework set by these rigorous, comparable education standards.”