What America Can Learn from Oklahoma’s Go-It-Alone Approach

This week marks an important moment for academic standards in Oklahoma: will the state regress to a lower bar or will they stand for higher expectations? As soon as today, Oklahoma lawmakers must decide if they want to approve weaker standards or start over again.
And the rest of the country will be watching.

Towards that end, Sooner State policymakers – and other states in a similar position – would be wise to read the Collaborative for Student Success’ new white paper: “Lessons from Oklahoma: What Policymakers Can Learn from the Sooner State’s Experience Repealing Common Core.”

The paper explains how the inevitable outcome origins of Oklahoma’s decision was ere planted when Indiana repealed the Common Core in 2014 and South Carolina did the same a few months later. The process, fallout, and conclusion were nearly identical in both cases. First, both states heartily congratulated themselves on rejecting the academic standards allegedly written in Washington. Then the states got to work on deciding which standards their schools should adopt. But a funny thing happened—it turned out there are certain skills all students need to master to become ready for college or a career, whether they live in Indiana, South Carolina or any of the 40 states using the Common Core. And, to some lawmakers’ dismay, it happens that these goals are well-reflected in Common Core Standards.

In the end, Indiana and South Carolina largely reaffirmed the Common Core State Standards under a new name and with a few modest tweaks sufficient to demonstrate their independence. The problem is that the Common Core’s critics – the very people for whom the entire exercise was intended to appease – recognized the similarities. They pounced on policymakers for a political bait-and-switch. In the end, both states wasted a lot of time and money and introduced unnecessary classroom confusion for no good reason at all.

Oklahoma, while similarly attempting to appease politically-charged critics, were uniquely prohibited by legislation to end up with standards similar to the Common Core. As a result This restriction from using high-quality standards created with significant input from teachers and other experts led to a final product that experts say lacks the depth and rigor needed for 21st century students. their final product is lacking in depth and rigor, to the detriment of the state’s students.

Now Oklahoma must face a similar choice: reject political rhetoric and defend higher standards, or capitulate to few loud voices by lowering the bar.

Teachers, administrators, parents and students in Oklahoma and beyond will be watching closely.