Printed on: August 18, 2013

A conservative win for Idaho


Imagine our surprise when our own research was cited in Coeur d'Alene recently in an ill-informed argument against the Common Core State Standards. Let's set the record straight: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes that the Common Core standards, which are cornerstones of today's education-reform movement, are a big win for Idaho's children. Yet the standards have been under attack -- largely from the right. As conservatives, we believe this is a grave mistake.

We can think of six strong, conservative arguments for supporting the Common Core.

1. Fiscal responsibility. The Common Core standards protect taxpayer dollars by setting world-class academic standards for student achievement -- and taxpayers and families deserve real results for their money.

2. Accountability. The Common Core demand accountability, high standards, and testing -- not the low expectations and excuses that many politicians and the establishment have permitted. Knowing the truth about how our children are performing may be painful but, in the long run, it will serve the children, the educators, and the state economy far better.

3. School choice. As strong supporters of parental choice, we are often asked, "Don't the Common Core force a "one-size-fits-all" approach onto schools?" The short answer: No.

Standards describe what students are expected to know and be able to do. Written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum or pedagogy. Plus, the information that comes from standards-based testing gives parents a common yardstick with which to judge schools and make informed choices.

4. Competitiveness. While the U.S. dithers, other countries are eating our lunch. This is why the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce support the standards -- because they will help ensure that students are ready to compete in college and on the job.

5. Innovation. The Common Core standards encourage a huge amount of investment from states, philanthropic groups, and private firms -- which are producing Common Core–aligned textbooks, professional development, online learning and more.

6. Traditional education values. The Common Core are worth supporting because they're educationally solid. They expect students to know their math facts, read the nation's founding documents, evaluate evidence, and come to independent judgments. They are miles better than three-quarters of the state standards they replaced, including those previously in place in Idaho.

We see the Common Core as a great conservative victory. The standards are solid and traditional. They don't give in to moral relativism, blame-America-first, or so many other liberal nostrums that have infected our public schools.

At the end of the day, the facts matter. We hope that Idaho will stay the course with the Common Core. It's really a victory for everyone.

Finn Jr. and Petrilli are, respectively, president and executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education-policy think tank. Finn served in the Reagan administration. Petrilli served in the George W. Bush administration. Both are affiliated with the Hoover Institution.