Why Stick with the Common Core? There Are a Lot of Reasons, Actually


Common Core State Standards “are beyond what many young learners are able to achieve” and “crowd out the essential components of what young learners need for healthy development,” Lisa Eggert Litvin, president emeritus of the Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA, argues in the Westchester Journal News. “Children lose confidence and feel insecure, all because they aren’t reaching standards that, for many, simply cannot be reached at their stage of development.”

Litvin suggests New York re-adopt the state’s old education standards, or those Massachusetts used before adopting the Common Core. “There is no good reason to keep the current version of CC in place…We have good options readily available.”

Contrary to Litvin’s claim, Common Core State Standards are built on the best evidence of what students need to know and be able to achieve in the classroom, beginning in early grades, to succeed at high levels of learning. And evidence shows the standards are age-appropriate to help all learners reach their full potential.

Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, wrote previously that the “developmentally inappropriate” argument is often used as a “weighty-sounding bit of education-ese,” but there are big holes in those claims.

“The bottom line,” Petrilli concludes, “is that ‘developmentally inappropriate’ is too often used as a shut-down phrase, one that adds little to debate or understanding. If we know where we want kids to be at the end of 13 years of schooling, delaying learning is the intellectual equivalent of a balloon payment on a mortgage. Sooner or later, it’s got to be paid up.” (His full piece is available here and worth a read.)

The fact is that it is impossible to draft a set of education standards that map a path to college and career readiness and bear no resemblance to the Common Core. That reality is borne out by outcomes from the few states that have taken the ill-advised “repeal and replace” course. Only three states—Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina—have replaced the Common Core with discernibly different learning goals, a white paper by the Collaborative explains. The experiences from each make clear that “replacing the Common Core State Standards invariably leads to either modest adjustments and renaming… or, academic standards that are inferior to the Common Core.”

Perhaps the question that Litvin should be asking is, why would New York want to turn back on the Common Core? The recent Honesty Gap analysis identifies the Empire State as among the “Most Honest” for achieving proficiency rates nearly identical to those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). “The findings indicate parents and educators are now receiving more accurate information about how well prepared their child is to move onto higher level material.”

Similarly, a Harvard University study finds that by implementing rigorous learning goals states have overwhelmingly raised their proficiency targets. “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,” the report concludes.

By replacing the Common Core, New York would take a step backward while others are moving ahead by continuing to refine and build on the Common Core framework. Like Oklahoma, officials would create disruption and uncertainty for schools, and likely only to produce standards that lack the clarity and rigor of the Common Core.

Litvin suggests New York could use Massachusetts old education standards. But as we have pointed out before, the Massachusetts Board of Education voted unanimously to replace those with the Common Core, and the state wouldn’t be using them even if it hadn’t adopted Common Core State Standards.

States have weighed the evidence and are overwhelmingly continuing to build on the Common Core. Instead of continuing to lament perceived faults with the standards, New York parents and students would be better served by working together to further improve on the Common Core—exactly as the standards are designed.