Some Opponents Continue to Target the Common Core, But States Are Moving Ahead with High Standards

Dr. Jeffrey Leef, a Republican candidate for Illinois’ 7th Congressional District seat, claims Common Core State Standards are “another example” of federal intrusion into local classrooms and “proof that governmental inefficiencies are a bipartisan effort,” West Cook News reports. Leef contends that Illinois “should, but won’t, abandon this failed program,” and argues that “Too many elected officials are beholden to the special-interest groups that benefit from sticking with this sinking ship.”

The Common Core has become a popular target among some politicians who seek to curry favor with a small but vocal subset of Americans, and no other line of attack has proven more popular than allegations of federal overreach. Even while objective analysis has time and again rejected such claims, as have educators, the criticism has eroded public attitudes toward the “Common Core” brand.

Regardless, the public remains strongly supportive of rigorous, comparable education standards, no matter what labels are attached. Two-thirds of parents favor a high baseline of academic expectations that is consistent among states and districts – a two point increase over previous years, according to an annual Education Next survey last month.

That’s exactly what most states are delivering. Six years ago, states began to raise the bar for schools and students by adopting the Common Core. Nearly across the board, states have implemented a high, consistent set of standards. Many are now reviewing their learning goals, making adjustments and continuing to build on the Common Core framework—exactly as the standards were designed.

A Harvard University study concludes: “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.” In fact, only one state—Oklahoma—has gone backwards to a set of inferior academic expectations.

“It is time to stop fighting about the words ‘Common Core,’” Jim Cowen explains. The standards “were always intended as a floor, not a ceiling, for student achievement. By every measure, they have achieved that objective… Most states are now moving on.” And so should politicians.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed with broad bipartisan support and permanently replaced No Child Left Behind, ensures states and local districts have full control over their standards and accountability systems—rendering claims of federal involvement moot.

States are “finally free to determine [their] own academic standards, without any mandates from Washington,” Senator Lamar Alexander, a chief architect of ESSA, writes in the Tennessean. A state “can choose Common Core, or uncommon core, or whatever high standards it likes.”

With that freedom, states have overwhelmingly doubled down on high, comparable education standards and high-quality assessments. And for good reason: Evidence shows that states’ commitment is already beginning to improve student performance. “Although it’s too early to plant a flag, initial [score reports] indicate…the original promise of the Common Core is working,” Cowen notes in a recent memo.

Raising the academic bar for students is the right thing to do, and though most states are still in the early stages of implementing higher standards, they are already seeing signs of improvement. In that regard, the Common Core has fulfilled its purpose, a fact Common Core opponents should know.