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Staying the Course on Higher State Standards

Nov 23, 2015

Opponents of Common Core have been pointing to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal as evidence that Common Core State Standards are on the decline. “After 45 states adopt educational standards, many have second thoughts,” claimed one of the headlines.

But is the premise of the article accurate? Hardly.

Of the 45 states that adopted Common Core, 42 are still implementing the higher state standards embodied in the Common Core. And it’s worth noting that two of the three states that announced they were dropping the Common Core academic standards – Indiana and South Carolina – replaced them with high standards that bear a striking resemblance to Common Core.

So how could the article be so wrong? The answer to that question appears to lie in a fundamental misunderstanding of the original intent behind Common Core.

Uniformity of standards was never the goal of Common Core; rather it was commonality around a very narrow and universally agreed upon core set of higher standards. (The goal was to have more students leaving high school ready for college or the workplace.) That’s an important distinction. Virtually everyone agrees that proficiency in math and English Language Arts helps determine success in college or in a career.

If you accept the incorrect premise that Common Core was designed to be some top-down national policy, a one-size-fits-all set of standards, then every deviation in standards among the states is evidence that commonality is being degraded, and therefore the standards are failing. But, of course, the standards were intended to establish a common floor, not a common ceiling.

The fact that 42 of the original 45 states have stuck with Common Core, while at the same time tweaking, customizing and generally strengthening their standards, is not proof that the standards are failing; rather it’s strong evidence the higher standards are being embraced as intended and necessary for the success of our students.