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Common Core Standards and the Silver Lining for School Choice

How are we supposed to objectively compare how our students are performing across the nation or world, if each state has different subjective standards for measured performance?

Corporations have set industry standards that allow for an objective, measurable comparison of financial performance. World class athletes compete with one another through the use of international units of measurement. However, a uniform standard of measurement has yet to exist for the performance of our public education system in educating our students.

This is just one of the many problems currently plaguing our failing public education system, but the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smart Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) who represent a coalition of 43 states, are currently working to solve this problem by implementing a common set of K-12 assessments (SBAC is only looking to offer exams for grades 3-8 and 11) in the subject areas of English language arts/literacy and math for each of their member states.

Looking to be fully implemented by 2014, both the PARCC and SBAC exams will be internationally-benchmarked computer based exams, administered both during and at the end of each school year, providing teachers and parents rapid results as to how their students are performing in obtaining the required knowledge and skills for each grade level as defined by the Common Core Standards (CCS).

Now many would argue that President Obama’s Race to the Top Education Program and the implementation of CCS is a large and encroaching move by the federal government into our children’s classrooms, especially since states were more or less bribed into joining the CCS program in order to avoid the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

“In encouraging the adoption of common standards by way of federal dollars, the Department of Education puts the country on a path toward national standards, backed with national tests, and perhaps ultimately, a national curriculum.” – Lindsey Burke, Heritage Foundation

Though acknowledging the miserable track record of the federal government in attempting to increase academic achievement, its coercive ability to control the states via its purse strings, as well as the sensible fear of the implementation of a national curriculum, we must also look at the CCS and its associated exams for what they merely are, tools for the measurement of the skills and knowledge in subject areas that are already being taught in each state.

CCS does little by way of implementing what specific methods or subject matter is to be used in the classroom. This is because the skills and knowledge of being able to add 2+2, write a narrative, or analyze a piece of literature are all the same, regardless of content.

So given that schools will still have control over their subject matter and teaching methods, the ability to finally have a standard and uniform measure of performance for our students across all states should not be something that is taken for granted. CCS and these exams could very well be the tools used to finally break the public education system free from its systemic failings.

This is because even though the implementation of CCS and its associated exams will undoubtedly increase accountability and objectivity regarding student performance, under the current organizational structure of the public education system their implementation will have little to no effect on student achievement. CCS only provides a system of measurement and does not attempt to address the incentives for individual schools in having their students meet those standards, other than maybe the pure embarrassment of being exposed as the worst performing school or state.

This will offer states with expanding school choice programs the opportunity to objectively prove their effectiveness. Whereas schools in other states may attempt to just meet the minimum standards for their students, in states with expanding school choice programs like Arizona, Louisiana, Indiana, and Florida it will no longer be adequate for schools and teachers to merely just meet standards. With the increasing opportunities and ease for students to choose schools, failing or even mediocre schools will succumb to declining enrollment as schools will be forced to compete via their elective curriculum, subject matter, teaching methods and their overall ability to improve their students’ academic performance above and beyond the Common Core Standards.

Common Core Standards and it associated exams simply provide a standard and unbiased measure of performance, all that the school choice movement needs to do now is race to the top.

Categories: Education
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