My Turn: It's time to focus on quality for public schools

For the Monitor
Published: 4/14/2021 9:00:07 AM

Bill Gates, the biggest funder and supporter of Common Core, once said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” About a decade after the implementation of Common Core, we now know it failed.

In Tom Loveless’s new book Between the State and the Schoolhouse, he explains that after a decade of Common Core State Standards in English language, art and mathematics, no convincing evidence exists that the standards had a significant, positive impact on student achievement.

The book explores Common Core from the initiative’s promising beginnings to its disappointing outcomes. Some of us who analyzed state standards developed prior to Common Core compared those state standards to the Common Core national standards. We could see that the Common Core Standards were not on the same level of excellence as state standards developed in places like Massachusetts.

Prior to the introduction of Common Core, commissioners at state departments of education developed their own academic standards in these core subjects. There were a few states that developed high quality standards, and their students showed the world that they could compete with students in high performing countries.

Instead of adopting the best state standards based on overwhelming evidence, state commissioners settled for mediocrity. With all of the data and evidence, no state officials adopted the best academic standards for the children attending public schools. That may have been due to the Race to the Top money given to state departments of education to distribute to local schools. Those federal funds were described by critics as a bribe. Whatever the reason, after a decade and the huge amount of money, we have little or nothing positive that came from this education initiative.

Improving New Hampshire’s academic standards is due, since they are Common Core Standards. There is no need to wait any longer to see if something will miraculously change. We know this expensive experiment on children did not work. The evidence and data are there. It’s time to stop prolonging this national catastrophe.

New Hampshire’s commissioner of education had this to say back in 2019 when the national scores on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) proved disappointing.

“Since I have held this role, the department has been laser focused on creating educational options and choices that work for students and families. The release today of the NAEP results simply highlights what has been known in education for decades. Minority and economically disadvantaged students are falling farther behind every year.

We simply cannot continue to do the same things, or even substantially the same things, year after year and expect a different result. Today’s report shows another year of stagnant results. Our seniors’ scores in math and reading are simply not improving. More troubling is that the achievement gap between high performing students and low performing students is increasing.”

Commissioner Edelblut ran into resistance when attempting to improve the Common Core Standards. The resistance came from former Gov. Hassan’s appointees to the NH State Board of Education after he was first appointed as commissioner. But now he has a new board made up of Gov. Sununu’s appointees.

We need parents to speak up and contact the NH State Board of Education and encourage them to support the commissioner on this important task. Children in New Hampshire’s public schools deserve better. With children returning to school, let’s make sure we set them up for success going forward.

(Ann Marie Banfield, an advocate for parental rights and academic excellence in education, lives in North Hampton.)

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