Jay Matthews of the Washington Post has been a Common Core skeptic for a while, and in a new column he wonders whether the new standards already have peaked:
new data indicate that the Common Core may already have passed its peak and begun the slow decline into oblivion, to which most U.S. school reforms succumb.
While this is a bleak sentiment, Matthews relies on new data from the Brookings Institution to make his case. He argues that the lackluster data, coupled with strong anti-standards rhetoric from presidential candidates, could be fatal to the Common Core project.
The idea that states and schools already have squeezed maximal growth from the standards is suspect. Matthews reaches back to 2009 to signal the adoption of the Common Core, but those of us who were in the trenches at that time know that real implementation at the school level happened far later than the political ribbon cutting ceremony. Matthews's argument relies on data for at most several years of implementation; anyone who works in schools knows that the worst kind of reforms are the flash-in-the-pan variety wherein we expect results overnight. Teachers, families, and communities deserve a real investment of time and energy linked to the new standards.
More importantly, however, Matthews is missing the point here. The Common Core is not just another "top down reform." The new standards are an attempt to establish in America what all of the best education countries in the world depend upon as the foundational element of their high achieving systems: high, internationally benchmarked standards. The pre-2009 patchwork of wildly asymmetrical state standards was a liability for American students and educators. Returning to that mishmash would be a huge mistake. We need to move forward, not backwards, when it comes to education in this country.