The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
              FILE - In this July 24, 2013 file photo, first grade teacher Lynda Jensen walks with her class of 30 children at Willow Glenn Elementary School in San Jose, Calif. The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia with the goal of making sure the nation’s high school graduates leave school ready for college or a job. But despite their widespread adoption, many parents don’t know what the standards are or whether their state has adopted them, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.  (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

America’s kids can handle the Common Core

Michael Brickman
National Policy Director, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

The latest polling shows Common Core opponents have not yet made tremendous inroads in swaying public opinion, but you have to hand it to them when it comes to the diversity of their criticisms. Some critiques of the Common Core are fair, some are not, and others have been a little out there.

But there’s one criticism that I’d be just fine if I never heard again: that American kids can’t handle the standards laid out in Common Core.

For years we heard the opposite criticism: that the standards were too low and would surely be “dumbing down” education in America. Numerous advocates from across the spectrum have refuted that point consistently, including our own detailed state-by-state analysis, but it persists nevertheless in some circles.

Others take the complete opposite view, that the standards are too tough and will lead to our kids getting discouraged.

“Don’t get me wrong. I am all for high standards. I am opposed to standards that are beyond reach,” said Diane Ravitch in a recent widely shared piece.

As expected, New York saw a dramatic drop in test scores this year commensurate with the higher standards of the Common Core. This realignment — and its subsequent wakeup call — is sure to repeat itself in numerous states as more and more choose rigor and honesty over the politically comfortable notion that our kids are doing just fine. Some may choose to assume New York’s test scores are a reflection of us asking too much of our education system but it really shouldn’t be too much to expect our students to learn enough reading, writing, and arithmetic to be ready for college or a career.

Too often they’re not even getting that, in New York or any other state. In fact, a 2011 estimate pegs our nation’s annual direct costs to reteach college freshman what they missed in high school at $3.6 billion, and this doesn’t even touch the economic impact. We will likely never see a day when every single New York child meets the new standards, but are these critics really willing to claim we are even close to maximizing our educational potential?

I’m not part of the starry-eyed, “kids can do darn well anything!” crowd. That line of thinking can go too far and lead to, for example, a massive push to get totally unprepared students to take Advanced Placement tests. That effort was well-intentioned and probably benefited some kids but was, predictably, an inefficient use of funds overall. Many of those students were hamstrung by perpetually low expectations, that were suddenly dialed up for one college-level course. Common Core creates a pathway to college readiness at the outset.

Consistent, rigorous expectations lead to better results. Conservatives have long argued for holding our students to higher standards instead of accepting mediocrity, and the Common Core is a major win on this front. We are replacing loose standards and low expectations with educationally solid, rigorous, and traditional standards. Our kids will be expected to know essential math skills and read and understand America’s founding documents.