For practical reasons, many Florida private schools are rolling up their sleeves and getting ready for the new Common Core State Standards for math and English/language arts. This fall, our nonprofit, Step Up For Students, will help about 140 private schools and their parents implement these new standards, and based on the dialogue we’re having with other schools, we’ll be helping many more next year.
Some observers believe common standards will undermine school choice. I disagree.
In the context of school choice, common standards serve the same function as the operating systems in computers or smart phones. Just as common operating systems (e.g., Apple or Microsoft) allow software developers worldwide to create an endless supply of innovative software applications, common academic standards are allowing teachers nationwide to create and share innovative curriculum, instructional materials, teaching activities and online lesson plans. We are already seeing a plethora of websites where teachers are posting open source lessons plans and instructional strategies aligned to Common Core. Innovative, free and Common Core-related professional development opportunities are also becoming ubiquitous online.
Common standards are helpful in this emerging new era of customized learning, where students are increasingly accessing content and taking courses from multiple providers simultaneously and/or sequentially. Parents want the freedom to continuously match their children with the learning options that best meet their needs, but they also want to know their children will not be disadvantaged as they move in and out of charter, virtual, home, magnet, private and neighborhood schools. Knowing that many schools are using the same operating system (i.e., the same standards) can help reassure parents that their children are able to receive a seamless, high quality education from diverse providers.
This is particularly important to low-income families.
Far too many low-income parents have experienced their children receiving all As and Bs in their inner-city schools only to discover they are performing several years below grade level when they take a standardized test. Common performance standards should reduce the frequency of this occurring.
That our country’s two primary college entrance exams, the ACT and SAT, are aligning their assessments to Common Core is also motivating private schools and their parents to embrace these standards. Private school parents want their children to be college ready when they leave high school, and private school administrators know this. Consequently, private schools are embracing the new standards to meet parental expectations.
Private schools and their parents value their autonomy. They will oppose government efforts to mandate curriculum or instructional strategies. But as long as these new standards are voluntary, many Florida private schools and parents will embrace them. For the school choice movement, that is a good thing.