Why Would Texas Try to Prohibit High, Comparable Standards?


Legislation now being considered by Texas lawmakers “would take another important step” to prevent the state’s schools from implementing “nationalized” learning goals, an article by the Tenth Amendment Center suggests. House Bill 1069 would require the state Board of Education to make sure school districts comply with a prohibition on Common Core standards.

The bill, however, is redundant. Texas never adopted the Common Core, and state law actually prohibits the state’s public schools from using the comparable standards. Moreover, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which permanently replaces No Child Left Behind, fully ensures state and district leaders have full control over their standards, assessments and accountability plans – in Texas and every other state.

Still, those guardrails haven’t stopped some agitators from fanning concerns, however unfounded. “Rogue teams changed the centuries-old successful classical teaching philosophy,” Carole Hornsby Haynes alleged in the Texas Insider last fall. “This is just the nose of the camel in the proverbial tent of curriculum standards.”

As Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, explains, there is a reason states’ learning goals bear similarities: Rigorous, comparable standards, “though not perfect, [represent] a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed in credit-bearing courses in college or land a good-paying job – and the milestones younger students need to pass to reach those goals.”

That reality may explain why the few states that have taken the ill-advised “repeal and replace” path have ended up with either nearly identical, or, inferior learning goals. In South Carolina, for example, lawmakers replaced the state’s education standards. The resulting academic expectations were 92 percent aligned in math and 89 percent in English language arts to those they replaced.

In fact, of the states that initially adopted higher standards, only Oklahoma has gone back to a set of demonstrably weaker learning goals. Under political pressure, leaders voted to replace the state’s comparable standards with expectations that should have no resemblance. An independent review of the new criteria concludes that they “will disadvantage Oklahoma students compared to their peers in other states; students in Oklahoma will be less prepared to successfully enter college and careers.”

As other states continue to build on a high baseline of academic expectations, Texas should not tie the hands of policymakers (any more than it already has) by prohibiting any learning goals that hint of comparability. Instead, state and local leaders should focus on further raising the academic bar for all students to ensure they are prepared for the challenges of college and careers.