Alabama has the opportunity to reclaim its education decision-making authority. It took the first steps toward doing so last week, when the Senate Education Committee approved a measure that would withdraw the Yellowhammer State from the Common Core State Standards Initiative—a push to nationalize standards and assessments across the country.
Alabama has been particularly proud of leading the way on conservative policy reforms. Now the state faces a true test of its willingness to reject the platitudes about common “college- and career-ready” or “globally competitive” standards and focus on restoring decisions about what is taught in Alabama classrooms to those closest to the students: parents, teachers, and local school leaders.
Common Core represents an unprecedented level of centralization: Alabama twice applied for a Race to the Top grant, promising to adopt Common Core standards in order to be more competitive for a grant, but was twice rejected. Now, the state has a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver pending and included a promise to implement the standards in its application.
Whether the state receives a strings-attached NCLB waiver is yet to be seen. But what is evident is the significant federal carrots dangled before Alabama—and every other state—to adopt Common Core.
Alabama should not take the bait. Instead, it should pave the way for other states to hop off the national standards bandwagon and restore their education sovereignty. In fact, the state standards Alabama eschewed in order to adopt Common Core standards were quite good, receiving high marks from the Fordham Institute and Education Week’s Quality Counts survey. Alabama students would be well-served by returning to the standards and assessments that were in place before the state signed on to Common Core and working to improve upon those standards in a way that meets the unique needs of local schools and students.
Across the country, policymakers, teachers, parents, and taxpayers are waking up to the numerous problems Common Core national standards present. The loss of classic literature, the mediocre mathematics standards, the significant costs to taxpayers, the elimination of competitive pressure to increase standards of excellence, and, most troubling, the massive federal intervention and further disenfranchisement of parents.
Fifty years of centralization has failed to improve educational outcomes. Common Core national standards represent centralization on a massive scale. It’s not too late for Alabama to reject this latest federal overreach and, in so doing, lead the way on meaningful education reform.
Alabama has the opportunity to truly improve its education system by exiting the Common Core, regaining control of what is taught in local classrooms, and empowering parents with educational choice.