While it’s no secret that President Trump campaigned on “ending Common Core,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has rarely discussed the issue of state standards publicly since taking office.
Earlier this week, however, she gave a simple explanation for the Department’s silence on the matter when she was asked to clarify the Trump Administration’s position on the Common Core State Standards.
Her answer? There’s nothing more to fight about.
“There isn’t really any Common Core anymore, and each state is able to set the standards for their state,” DeVos replied on Fox News. “The Every Student Succeeds Act, which is in the process of being implemented now, essentially does away with the whole argument about Common Core.”
DeVos is referring to the important fact that ESSA explicitly prohibits the Department of Education from requiring, coercing, or even incentivizing states to adopt any specific set of academic standards – leaving that decision squarely in the hands of states.
In a recent piece in The Daily Caller, John Kline, former chair of the House Education Committee, echoed DeVos’ conclusions that there is nothing to debate over Common Core, saying: “The short answer is that there is nothing left to repeal. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)… devolves powers over standards, tests, and accountability from the Department of Education to states and localities.”
Mr. Kline should know. He was one of the architects of the ESSA federal law that put states in the driver’s seat with respect to K-12 education standards.
Since ESSA’s enactment in 2015, policymakers at the state level have systematically moved past the Common Core debate, empowered by a new federal law to review their standards, amend them, generally make them unique to their state – all while keeping the bar high for students.
In short, ESSA severed any ties between Washington and the states with respect to standards. That’s important, because over the years, a perception grew that the term “Common Core” meant federal overreach and a Washington imposition on states.
Under the leadership of DeVos, the Department of Education’s role will be first to ensure state plans comply with ESSA, and then to support states as they implement their plans for a strong system of education.
But ultimately, it is the responsibility of every state to ensure that they maintain high academic standards and high-quality aligned annual assessments – two critically important components to improving outcomes.
The debate over Common Core is over. It’s time to let states continue to move forward with high standards for all students so each can meet his or her full potential.
Jim Cowen is executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Collaborative for Student Success.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.