States Spend Money on Education Regardless of Whether or Not They Adopted Common Core


Common Core State Standards “have not only failed to produce the results that proponents promised, they are also incredibly expensive,” claims Teresa Mull, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, in the opinion pages of the Washington Times.

Citing a study by the Education Policy Analysis Archives, which alleges “the entire claim [about higher standards] may ultimately be empty,” Mull concludes: “If parents want what’s best for their kids, they need to find and support candidates who will work to end the Common Core disaster.”

Allegations like Mull’s aren’t new. The Wall Street Journal dubiously reported late last year that “more than $7 billion had been spent or committed in connection with the new standards.” But, as Karen Nussle points out (and the WSJ article acknowledged), states and districts spend money on standards, teacher development, testing and a host of educational requirements, regardless of whether they adopted Common Core or not.

In other words, states regularly make investments in their school systems. It is less than honest to suggest they would not have used those funds had it not been for the implementation of new education standards.

What’s unique is that Mull claims that states’ commitment to raising academic expectations is a “disaster” that “parents, teachers and students hate” – an opinion that a majority of parents and teachers would disagree with. In reality, states have established a high, comparable baseline for student achievement, and most continue to build on it. That is a huge achievement for parents and teachers – and it aligns with evidence that shows parents want, and expect, high expectations for their kids, no matter what labels are attached.

In that respect, Common Core achieved its purpose. The standards were always meant to accelerate implementation of rigorous and comparable learning goals. They set a floor, not a ceiling, for student achievement, and education leaders continue to build up. As a Harvard study notes, “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.”

Contrary to Mull’s assertion, states have overwhelmingly stood by their commitment to high standards. Many states continue to review and tailor their standards to ensure they meet their students’ needs. Only one state, Oklahoma, has reverted back to a set of inferior academic standards. Its decision, which created disruption and uncertainty for schools and ultimately puts students at a disadvantage, is a cautionary lesson for policymakers elsewhere.

Rigorous, consistent education standards coupled with high-quality assessments are delivering results. This spring, most states administered assessments aligned to high standards for the second year. Nearly across the board, they are seeing improvement in student performance. Notably, some of the biggest gains have come among early-grade students, who have spent most of their educations learning to higher standards.

For most state and local leaders, the issue of high, comparable education standards is resolved. States have raised classroom expectations to levels that reflect college- and career-readiness, and they continue to build on them. Not surprisingly, most states are now seeing student performance increase. For parents and teachers that should come as a welcome accomplishment.

“It’s time to stop fighting about the words ‘Common Core’ and move forward,” Jim Cowen says. “Now is the time for policymakers to double down on their commitment to high, comparable education standards, high-quality assessments and the success they are delivering.”