Let History Not Repeat Itself: Overcoming Obstacles to the Common Core’s Success

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The Common Core State Standards project is the latest in a series of efforts to improve the academic success of American students. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have endorsed new academic benchmarks that substantially raise the bar for achievement in English and mathematics. Aiming at a deeper form of learning, the initiative is a potential watershed in U.S. education, uniting most of the country around an ambitious yet practically grounded vision of what schools and students need to accomplish.

But will it succeed? History is not on its side. Twice before, the nation has rallied around bold reforms—first in the 1980s with responses to A Nation at Risk and later with the No Child Left Behind Act. Neither moved the nation’s students substantially forward. But history need not be repeated. If the implementers of the Common Core take a hard look at the past, they will find not only potential pitfalls but also some research guidance for the path ahead.

This ES Select identifies five big obstacles to the Common Core’s success—assessments, performance levels, accountability, teachers, and technology—with essential lessons that policymakers must consider as the Common Core unfolds.