The media has hyped state angst around implementation of an initiative called Common Core. Forty-five states and D.C. have adopted these voluntary academic standards in English and math (developed under the leadership of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers). But recently, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Utah have withdrawn from the sophisticated assessments that are designed to measure how students perform against the standards, opting instead for cheaper home-grown options.
It shouldn't be a surprise that some states are reluctant to adopt tests that attempt to measure progress against the Common Core State Standards. Three steps can prevent this resistance from escalating and potentially undoing the Common Core:
- Market the good news: Despite all the hype around the few states that have opted out of Common Core, there are still 40 states on board. The media won't cover the good news, so those who support Common Core need to be more aggressive in highlighting how these standarsd can make a difference. A recent survey by the Center on Education Policy and George Washington University, for instance, found that at least 37 of the states who signed up for the standards have no intention to revert to their old ones. Supporters need to highlight how common standards are a feature of high-performing education systems throughout the world. America's failure to adopt such standards weakens its ability to compete in the global economy.
- Find a way to fund the assessments: Many states signed on to Common Core because adopting the standards was incentivized by the U.S. Department of Education. If we want easier acceptance of common core assessments, we also need to entice states to bankroll their adoption. This is where the philanthropic or corporate communities may want to step in and support the administration of the tests which estimates show can cost up to $30 per students. We could even ask families if they would be interested in paying out of pocket to see how their children do on the test. Considering how often schools go to parents for myriad fundraising activities that have nothing to do with academics, this could be an interesting exercise in dispelling the notion that American families care more about extracurricular activities than about their children's education and demonstrate local control at its best.
- Support Common Core's full implementation: Common Core will shine a bright light on the poor performance of American schools. That's an important part of school reform, but it's not sufficient to spur progress. One of No Child Left Behind's greatest shortcomings was its failure to clearly carve a path toward improvement for those schools where the achievement gaps were the most persistent. Some of our great schools may do poorly on Common Core initially but these schools likely will be able to pivot quickly. The challenge will be to find a way to move the schools that we already know will fare poorly under Common Core to a better place academically.
Common Core and its assessments will simply provide us with the diagnosis of the disease. But without the diagnosis, we'll never be able to determine the right cure.
- Read Jamie Chandler: Christine Quinn Is Misplaying Anthony Weiner's Scandal
- Read Mercedes Schlapp: Cleaning Up Steve King's Mess
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, an insider's guide to politics and policy