Common Core and NCLB


 

By Cameron Pipkin

An interesting discussion has popped up online recently that I’ve been meaning to share. A few weeks ago on her blog, National Journal writer Fawn Johnson cornered two of the chief architects of the now much-maligned No Child Left Behind— Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education under Bush Jr., and George Miller, D-Calif—and asked them to share their thoughts on the Common Core Standards. Their responses were unsurprising.

Both Spellings and Miller defended the legislation that they played such a key part in passing, and cautioned that the Standards should in no way replace the basic academic requirements of NCLB.

Ego?

Honesty?

A little of both?

Who can say.

“The idea that we’re going to be able to run a marathon without being able to run a mile,” Spelling tells Johnson, “I don’t get that.”

“Why don’t we all take the MCATs, and those who succeed will be doctors and the rest of us just hang out, “Miller adds.

Fair enough, though I’m not sure that either analogy holds much water. The bigger question, though, of how to view the Common Core Standards in the context of NCLB is one worth discussing. To Johnson and Miller at least, the Standards appear to represent an existential threat to NCLB—as if the Common Core might inherently exclude the possibility of assessment-measured standards.  To my reading of them, however, the Standards appear built to accommodate test writing (which in fact they are), like a cliffhanger at the end of a Hollywood blockbuster that begs for a sequel.  The Common Core Standards, in other words, are upgradable.

Rather than a threat, the Standards might be viewed more like the grandchildren of NCLB. The Common Core owes its existence to the test-centered program, and to Clinton’s Improving America’s School Act, which required federal funding to establish statewide standards and tests for students.  Without these programs, we would never have known how incredibly ineffective a sweeping, assessment based program could be at measuring progress and improving schools.

Will the Common Core Standards work? Only time will tell. Are they an improvement over NCLB? Without a doubt.