Collaborative Director Jim Cowen – Statement on Rigorous K-12 Standards

On April 27, 2021, Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, published the statement below in response to a new book by Tom Loveless titled “Between the State and the Schoolhouse: Understanding the Failure of Common Core.”

This month, education scholar Tom Loveless published a new book titled “Between the State and the Schoolhouse: Understanding the Failure of Common Core.”  Loveless seeks to articulate the impact in schools of the high-quality standards movement but misses the forest through the trees.

Education standards are goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Plain and simple. 3rd graders in New York should be learning the same skills as 3rd graders in Mississippi. Governors and state education leaders believed in this concept and sought to bring the best thinking together to create a transparent, coherent, and consistent set of standards where chaos existed before. The standards alone were always just a starting point.  As Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, has written, the effort has led to positive and meaningful changes, in particular around the adoption of significantly better curricular materials.

Students would be better served if we spent less time looking backward at the politics of these learning goals and more time looking forwards at how to actually reach them. That includes supporting educators with proper training, professional development, and materials relevant to the standards they are teaching.

As Petrilli wrote, “going backward will accomplish nothing.” The smartest path is to continue to follow through on the initiative – particularly as our schools seek to rebuild stronger after disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why the Collaborative and its partners are focused on building on what we’ve learned to further improve on bringing high-quality instructional materials into our schools and ensuring that state assessments will be given to students to shine a light on their academic needs.