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What’s next for Common Core

As policy makers are trying to figure out the next steps in America’s education system, the Common Core State Standards are the talk of the town. Are they a good idea? Should there be standardized tests? Will schools suffer without a specific set of academic goals? All of these questions and more were raised and addressed in a webinar titled “Opt-Out or Cop-Out? A Debate on ‘New’ Accountability Systems."
 
The webinar was jointly hosted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Democrats for Education Reform, and featured an all-star cast of panelists: Charles Barone, Policy Director at Democrats for Education Reform; Robin Lake, Director at the Center for Reinventing Public Education; Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President of Programs at the National Council of La Raza; Nelson Smith, Senior Advisor at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers; and Michael Petrilli – who was the most vocal person on the panelist – Executive Vice President at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
 
Andy Smarick from Bellwether Education Partners moderated the lively group of panelists as they debated back and forth over whether schools should adopt Common Core, why or why not the Standards are necessary, and how schools should measure the academic growth of their students. And while most of the panel agreed that the Common Core State Standards are a good idea, they all had very different opinions on how it should be implemented.
 
Here are some interesting highlights/viewpoints from the 90 minute debate:
•Petrelli believes that a certain percentage of schools should be allowed to opt out from state based tests and standards if those schools are already performing well; furthermore, he believes that college enrollment rates and AP success are (arguably) better measures of High School student performance.
•Barone disagrees with any opt-out system, and asserts that we need to find out why schools are against Common Core before a new solution is offered; instead he suggests that we let the Standards play out and more closely monitor how the landscape of education is changing.
•Lake is all for having a common set of standards; she cites the current messy state of the charter school system as proof of this, and blames the lack of accountability for spawning the “no way to fail” mindset of those schools.
•Pompa takes Lake’s sentiment one step further with the belief that giving schools the ability to opt-out will actually damage at-risk and minority students; taking away the accountability system that Common Core provides would only do more harm than good.
•Smith proposes that Common Core will “diffuse the testing bomb” by actually providing students with the knowledge they need to pass any kind of test; however, he also believes that standardized testing does not provide enough information about the academic growth of a student.
 
It is clear that there is a lack of consensus on how Common Core should be implemented and that the diversity of our schools play a big part in the debate. So what are the next steps in academic assessment? Are we ever going to find a solution that will make everyone happy? Chances are we won’t, as evidenced by the general lack of agreement from this panel of just five people. However, what this panel did agree upon is the fact that students are the number one priority. American students are falling behind their global peers, and that needs to change. Ensuring their success after school – whether that means going into college or the workforce – comes before everything else, and we at NMSI could not agree more.