The Agenda

Michael Horn’s Case for Common Core Standards

There has been considerable grassroots opposition to Common Care state standards, in part because the standards are now closely associated with the Obama administration, as Rick Hess explained back in August:

In particular, the Obama administration’s push in Race to the Top, its ESEA “blueprint,” NCLB waivers, and the rest has gradually turned the Common Core into a partisan issue that may enjoy enthusiastic backing from elite edu-Republicans like Jeb Bush and Mitch Daniels, but that is now seen by a growing swath of conservatives as just another facet of Obamaesque federal overreach. 

Indeed, Common Core, or “ObamaCore” as some conservative critics call it, played a role in Tony Bennett’s defeat in his bid for reelection as Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction. But what is the affirmative case for Common Core? Michael Horn argues that it could help create a common market for innovative instructional models:

I’m a proponent of states adopting Common Core state standards that are fewer, clearer, and higher in part because of the innovation their adoption could seed through the creation of a common market. Having common standards across the country could begin to reward content providers that target the long tail of learners because they would help to aggregate demand across the country, as opposed to what happens today where those providers that tailor their offerings to different and idiosyncratic state standards, for example, are rewarded.

Yet as Horn goes on to explain, states are assessing instructional gains in a highly counterproductive manner, thus undermining the case for the Common Core state standards. Horn offers a way to redeem the Common Core project — embracing bite-sized assessments as part of a competency-based approach, in order to provide richer real-time data on student achievement.


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