Paul Thomas here reviews the persistent efforts to persuade the public that American public education is a failure, starting with the Reagan-era report “A Nation at Risk.” Never mind that none of its dire predictions about our economy came true (except for the outsourcing of jobs–not to countries with higher test scores but to countries with lower wages).


The Common Core is the latest iteration of the Nation-at-Risk narrative that our country needs higher standards and harder tests or we are doomed.


He writes that “Common Core is the problem, not the solution, because it is the source of a powerful drain on public resources in education that are not now invested in conditions related to racial and class inequity in our public schools.”


Where I disagree with Thomas is that he thinks it is a distraction to fight against Common Core and a waste of time. No, it is not a waste of time. Common Core and the tests connected to it will artificially cause test scores to collapse. It will label children as “failures” who are not failures at all. Most students, whatever their color, will be stigmatized by tests aligned with an absurd standard of proficiency (aligned with NAEP proficiency, which is equivalent to an A, in my view). Common Core, as Thomas notes, will bring about the transfer of billions of dollars to testing corporations and additional billions to technology companies and consultants. These billions will be drained from the budgets of public schools, meaning less money for essential and necessary educational opportunities.


The fight over Common Core brings to a head the confrontation between the accountability policies unleashed by Nation at Risk and policies that are based on the needs of children and concepts of education untainted by standardized testing.