School & District Management Opinion

Common Core: A Platform for Achievement & Innovation

By Tom Vander Ark — September 27, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

We’ve tried to avoid presidential politics here, but some comments about the federal role in education this week (covered well by

K-12 Politics

) suggested the need to reiterate the importance of common standards and the constructive role that the federal government and national organizations can

For three years some prominent folks have suggested that the Race to the Top (RttT) program was coersive. But you may recall that it was just five percent
of the education investment made as part of the stimulus bill. It was a completely voluntary grant program for which states could apply.

I’ve argued that RttT had the biggest impact of any grant program in history
even before a dime was spent. It was a well-structured package of reforms that produced an amazing amount of mobilization and big advances in policy
reform. It was basically the performance incentives for the reforms that Governor Jeb Bush and President George Bush pioneered including school
accountability, data driven teacher evaluation and school choice. That makes it ironic that some Republicans are still carping about it.

If anything, more of the stimulus bill should have been structured as incentive, not less. And more of the federal budget should be structured as
incentives rather than automatic formulas that become entitlements.

The RttT program was timely for the effort to build and adopt common national standards. Governors like Jim Hunt and business executives like Lou Gerstner
have worked toward national standards for 20 years. RttT added a turbocharger to the common standards movement championed by the National Governor’s
Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The Common Core State Standards, what I called the iPhone for Edu, has
brought up the rear in 30 states with low standards and launched an avalanche of innovation, including adaptive
learning platforms like i-Ready and fully digital Common Core-aligned curriculums like the

Pearson 1:1 launched at Huntsville this August.

and LearnZillion are some of the scrappy startups banking on Common
Core (as noted in a review of Bob Rothman’s book on the
Common Core). Every week we see new engaging Common Core-aligned content, apps, and platforms -including lots of open educational resources (OER). The
improved ability to share resources across state lines is a huge benefit.

The most important benefit is high common college and career ready standards--the holy grail of educational equality. We can finally say that nearly every
state is committed to preparing every student for viable life options.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions: The Common Core is a project of governors and chiefs, not a federal program. It is a set of standards, not a national
curriculum. And, the Common Core will save, not cost billions.

The feds can play a productive role in education by creating incentives for better performance, by promoting educational equality, and by supporting
primary research. All three roles deserve bipartisan support.

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.