A coalition generally consisting of conservatives called the Common Core into question, and some states have retreated from adopting them. One argument against the Common Core was that there was undue pressure on states to use them, in part because they were a requirement for states that wanted to get federal “race to the top” money. Education is the province of the states, critics say, and the federal government is prohibited from being involved in school curricula. Another argument is that the Common Core standards are in reality less rigorous than the standards in a number of states.
But this fight is not the real story. Declaring what students should know is far different than having them actually know it. Experience under the No Child Left Behind law (enacted in 2002) shows that many students have not reached proficiency even in states with weak standards. The performance of students across states is unrelated to the rigor of their existing standards.
Regardless of what or whose standards are adopted in the public schools, educational improvement requires strong accountability systems, rewarding teachers who are effective, eliminating teachers who are harming students, and providing added choice to parents about where their children go to school. Research has shown that these policies, while not silver bullets, each push toward higher student achievement.