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Opinion: ‘Common Core’ Standards Fail to Serve Students

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Americans for Prosperity – Michigan’s Newsroom on March 5, 2013.)

How many times have we heard that we need to raise education standards and put more money into schools in order to raise test scores and improve education in America? Lots. It seems that every President wants to make education a top-priority of their administration, and every single time, parents are left with higher costs and meager results. But more importantly, students are left in a system that promotes mediocrity and uniformity. We can, and should do better.

The federal government has required states to raise their academic standards at least five times over the last two decades with little success. President Bill Clinton’s Goals 2000, President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top have all asked states to raise their standards, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has subsequently found no significant improvement in student achievement.1

With the failure of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind, many education policymakers have amplified the call for national academic standards. Proponents of national standards argue that it makes no sense for states to have differing curricula when our globalized economy demands everyone to have the same fundamental knowledge. The Common Core State Standards Initiative was created in 2009 to heed this call for national standards, describing itself as a supposedly “state-led effort” coordinated by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.2

Common Core standards are essentially another federal government “knows best” mandate that adopts the same failed strategies over the last 40 years by simply calling for higher standards. It has undergone no field testing or evaluation and was never voted on by Michigan lawmakers.

Maybe this administration is smarter than all of the rest and it will succeed; or maybe, just maybe, this is entirely the wrong approach?

We accept in other industries — technology, health care, automotive and manufacturing — that competition drives innovation, lowers prices and all-around improves standards for both products and services. New standards are demanded continuously by the customer and improvements are made as a result. Why don’t we do the same with education? Why does what works elsewhere get discarded so quickly, and what doesn’t work gets tried ad nauseam?

Education is too important for society and prosperity to be controlled by those furthest from the students. Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation sums it up best when she says that, “Adopting Common Core national standards and tests surrenders control of the content taught in local schools to distant national organizations and bureaucrats in Washington. It is the antithesis of reform that would put control of education in the hands of those closest to the student: local school leaders and parents.”3

That fact is not all students are created alike, and a one-sized fits all education platform is not the answer to improving education. Parents should be given more choices and local school districts and teachers should be given more flexibility to provide the higher standards students deserve. Common Core removes parents from important decisions regarding their child’s education undermining the very nature of accountability. Do we want teachers and school to be accountable to parents and their children, or to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. who can’t even pass a budget?

1. National Assessment of Education Progress, “The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress in Reading and Mathematics 2008,” (April 2009) (Online at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2008/2009479.asp)
2. Americans for Prosperity Foundation, “Need to Know: Common Core Initiative,” (August 2012) (Online at http://americansforprosperityfoundation.com/files/NtK_56_Common_Core.pdf)
3. Lindsey Burke, “States Must Reject National Education Standards While There is Still Time,” (April 2012) (Online at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/04/states-must-reject-national-education-standards-while-there-is-still-time)


Greg George

Greg George is an Advocacy Coordinator with the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA). Twitter: @GregMGeorge

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