One of the reasons I'm so concerned about rigorous high standards is that they're under assault in Massachusetts. In 1993, Massachusetts led the country in adopting high standards for all students, and the state has been at the forefront of maintaining high standards for the last generation, including being an early adopter of the Common Core. That's why this is a concern:
Worcester native and School Committee member Donna Colorio is heading the charge to bring the fate of Common Core in Massachusetts to the 2016 ballot ... In 2013, after losing a re-election bid to the School Committee, she started Common Core Forum, which advocates for abandoning the Common Core standards in Massachusetts.
Worcester Magazine has a good, long article about the debate to move away from rigorous standards in Massachusetts. Michael Cohen (no relation) from Achieve has one of the best, pithy arguments for the standards that I have heard:
... we know there is a huge gap in the complexity of texts that students typically read in high school based on the complexity of texts when they walk into a college classroom. We have not been preparing students with the reading skills necessary to take on a reading in any kind for a post-secondary training program. A second one has to do with writing. [Students have] been asked to write their opinions about something, but not necessarily draw evidence from things they’ve read or gathered in other ways and write a coherent argument.
Older standards, even Massachusetts's comparatively good ones, were inadequate in linking K-12 rigor to college and career demands. Less compelling is the department of education's response to the simple question, "What is Common Core?":
It’s a set of curriculum frameworks for math and English language arts. Curriculum frameworks are different from curriculum. Curriculum frameworks are a list of what kids should know and be able to do at each grade. It’s up to each district to choose the curriculum.
With all due respect, this is not the kind of thing that inspires confidence in parents and teachers. Educators and government officials need to tell parents and teachers that the standards are rigorous, internationally competitive, and flexible. Using edu-jargon like "curriculum" and "frameworks" is making the case more confusing.