Trump’s Transition Team Got It Wrong. States Have Taken Control of Education Standards and Assessments


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump picked Williamson Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute, to lead his presidential transition team for education, Education Week reports. Last year, Evers wrote that states’ implementation of high standards suppressed “competitive federalism.”

“Common Core’s rules and its curriculum guidance are the governing rules of a cartel. The Common Core’s promoters and their federal facilitators wanted a cartel that would override competitive federalism and shut down the curriculum alternatives that federalism would allow,” Evers argued.

However, states have overwhelmingly made a commitment to high standards and high-quality assessments. The Common Core was always meant to set a floor, not a ceiling, for student achievement. In that sense, the Common Core has achieved its purpose. 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.”

Across the board, states have taken control of their learning goals and assessments. Additionally, the Every Student Succeeds Act ensures federal authorities have no say over what standards or accountability systems states use. Calling the law a “huge win for conservatives,” Congressman John Kline explained, “The federal government should not be able to tell states what standards they can or cannot adopt.”

Many states continue to review and make changes to ensure their standards meet student needs, but in near unanimity they are keeping the bar high for students. In fact, only one state—Oklahoma—has reverted back to inferior standards. That states are setting high expectations, and measuring to those levels, is a big step in the right direction for parents and teachers.

An Education Next poll this fall found that more than two-thirds of parents strongly support rigorous, comparable education standards that prepare their children for college and careers, no matter what label is attached. More than seven in ten favor annual exams to measure student preparedness and disagree with opt-out efforts. That is exactly what states are now delivering.

Teachers report that high standards are helping to unlock students’ full potential. Last year, 21 State Teachers of the Year noted that implementation of high standards is not a “federal takeover” of schools, nor do they “force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction.” In fact, they explain, “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.”

Individuals who continue to insist states were forced to implement higher standards are misinformed. In response to recent comments by Donald Trump, Jim Cowen explains:

“In the end, his clamor about ending the Common Core is both obsolete and irrelevant. The standards succeeded in raising the bar in nearly every state in the country. Now parents, students and teachers are focused on meeting these new goals to better become college and career ready.”

The Common Core achieved its purpose. States have implemented high standards, they continue to build on those further, they have begun to use assessments reflective of college and career readiness, and there is greater comparability among states and districts than before. That is a success that parents and teachers should be able to support.