Commentary: Rethinking Common Core

Michigan’s Senate recently passed an omnibus budget that specifically prevents the Michigan Department of Education from spending money to implement the Common Core State Standards that are being instituted in many states all over the country. Assuming Gov. Snyder signs the bill, the Senate may have scored a victory for school choice and its beneficiaries.

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The Common Core Standards are a rigorous and detailed set of academic expectations for students at every grade level. The standards also provide teachers instructions on what material to teach and how to teach it. Many states have adopted them, giving teachers, schools, and even school districts little discretion when it comes to forming their own curricula and teaching plans. Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) found the specificity of the standards objectionable, saying, “We don’t need standards that tell teachers how to teach. Teachers go to universities to learn how to teach. Standards should focus on what to teach.”

If Michigan does indeed reject the standards, teachers could have more discretion to teach as they wish. Schools could also have freedom to deviate from certain federally-mandated norms. By preventing implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the Senate could help schools provide a quality education to each student without mandating an identical education for each student.

Rejecting federally mandated standards should allow both schools and school districts to differentiate themselves in a number of ways, giving parents more educational options. Differentiation is at the core of school choice logic- one educational model will not fit all students. If Michigan rejects the standards, more students will have access to a wider and more varied range of educational options.

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