States Are In the Driver’s Seat When it Comes to Standards

Common Core State Standards and “true choice in education are incompatible,” claims Robert Holland, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute. The standards were imposed on states “from the top down,” Holland argues, and are part of a “larger, controlling agenda” from Washington.

Contrary to Holland’s argument, the Common Core State Standards were developed free from federal involvement. Educators, experts and state leaders from 49 states and territories worked together to write the standards, which were made available for public input. State leaders then voluntarily adopted the standards.

Federal authorities complicated states’ efforts by endorsing the Common Core through Race to the Top. Experts agree that was a mistake. “It made a voluntary agreement among states look like a top-down directive from the federal government,” former Education Secretary Bill Bennett explains. But that “does not change a basic truth: Common, voluntary standards are good, conservative policy.”

Moreover, adoption of college- and career-ready education standards accounted for less than 10 percent of states’ eligibility in the Race to the Top program. Nearly half the states continued to implement the Common Core despite never receiving Race to the Top funds, and states that never adopted the Common Core still received No Child Left Behind waivers.

The Every Student Succeed Act, which was signed into law last December, goes even further to ensure states have full control over their education standards. Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, called the law a “huge win for conservatives.” “If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that,” Rep. Kline noted.

Overwhelmingly, states are continuing to review, refine and build on the Common Core—exactly as the standards were designed. “Despite concerted efforts to derail implementation of Common Core State Standards and the high-quality assessments that support them, states have weighed the evidence and opted to build on the framework set by these rigorous, comparable education standards,” Jim Cowen wrote earlier this year.

That is largely because, as Karen Nussle explained previously, it is impossible to create college- and career-ready standards that bear no resemblance to Common Core State Standards. The outcomes from the few states that have tried to reaffirm such efforts invariably result in either a “rebranding of the Common Core,” or learning goals inferior to the Common Core.

Sadly, hold-out opponents like Holland continue to lob disingenuous attacks meant to erode public support for the Common Core by playing on parents’ fears. “Increasingly, however, lies, myths, exaggerations and hysteria about what the Common Core means and does have dominated the “debate” and the real issues have been obscured,” Bill Bennett wrote last year. “It is time for truth and integrity in this debate.”