The practice of hunting buffalo by herding them together and driving them off of a cliff has long been abandoned, but as a political tactic, the method is still in use.
States across the U.S. have been assembled and are running off of a cliff in the name of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Arizona and 45 other states signed on to the new standards, though few in state legislatures or the general public know what the standards will require.
One would hope that if the entire country were going to unify behind one set of curriculum guidelines, they would be rigorous and prepare American children to compete in the global economy. Not so with the Common Core.
For example, Arizona’s prior standards treated “literary and non-literary texts distinctly and thoroughly and in more detail than the Common Core,” though there were other areas of Arizona’s standards that did need improvement, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. California’s standards, and those of some high-achieving nations, require more preparation for Algebra I; and the content of the Common Core for Geometry and Algebra II is weaker than the standards formerly in place in Massachusetts and California.
This hodgepodge of adjustments and push towards homogenization creates a “race to the middle,” according to Pioneer Institute experts Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman. Ms. Stotsky served on the Common Core Validation Committee, but did not sign off on the standards; and Mr. Wurman served on the commission that evaluated the standards for implementation in California.
The standards also won’t prepare our students for competitive colleges and universities. Pioneer points out that in 2010, Common Core authors admitted before the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the focus on college readiness when they were developing the standards was “minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.”
Beyond assessing the rigor of the curriculum, lawmakers will also need to consider the cost of implementing the new standards. Recently, California became one of the first states to estimate what the new standards will cost to implement: $800 million. We know very little about what it will cost elsewhere.
Lawmakers across the country should give serious thought to the price they want to pay to implement standards that aren’t internationally competitive and don’t prepare our children for college. Arizona and other states should opt out of the Common Core and take the best elements from the curriculum standards previously used in Massachusetts and California in order to raise the academic bar for our students. We shouldn’t join the race to the middle.
Jonathan Butcher is education director for the Goldwater Institute.
Closing the Door on Innovation: Why One National Curriculum is Bad for America
The Pioneer Institute: Fair to Middling: A National Standards Progress Report
The Pioneer Institute: Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade