Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Common Core: Is it Worth it?

By Stephanie HahmPublished October 24, 2014

The Common Core, the newest educational initiative for K-12 students, is a switch that students, teachers, and policymakers have been recently debating about. One of the main arguments from opponents of the Common Core is the price tag to transition from the current expenditures to match the new educational standards. But is the price required a big enough obstacle to detract states from implementing it?

By Stephanie Hahm, 10/24/14 

            The recent switch in policy education—from former President Bush's No Child Left Behind proposal to the now current Common Core standards—has changed the course of American education within the last twenty years. In 2008, a nonpartisan group of school board officials and academic researchers created a Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) report that brought attention to the flaws of the No Child Left Behind system. With an emphasis on annual testing and progress reports, teachers were more focused on teaching students test material rather than the curriculum. It also looked to achieve "proficiency" by a 2014 deadline, but this goal was neither measureable nor attainable. With the report published, policymakers and educators started looking toward education reform at a federal level.

            Today, with the full backing of the federal government, Common Core standards have been developed to become a push for teachers and students to look at material in a curricular framework. They value strategic thinking and real-world application, all the while maintaining that U.S. students match educational achievement levels of comparable countries. With such change, however, inevitably comes the cost. There have been several complaints from opponents, as they find that states taking up these standards will need to allot a big amount of money from their budget. The National Conference of State Legislatures asserts that states need to consider both up-front costs, which include textbooks, professional development for teachers, and assessment procedures, as well as ongoing costs needed to maintain the programs.

            The Fordham Institute recently did research on what the consequences of paying for implementation of Common Core standards would look like. The author writes about three different models that states could use. The Bare Bones model is "the lowest-cost alternative," only utilizing the very minimum needed for implementation, mainly through online programs. The Business as Usual model is the "traditional (and priciest) approach" with components such as hardcover textbooks and in-person assessment and professional development. Lastly, the Balanced Implementation uses both of these approaches, taking on a cost-efficient resolution.

            When comparing each states' current expenditures on assessment, professional development, and the purchase of instructional materials and the costs that it would take to transition to the Common Core standards, the three models require different budgets. With Business as Usual, the "current expenditures represent about one-third of the gross transitional costs." As this model is the most expensive of the three, it requires a significant increase in education funds. However, the other two plans have more reasonable and economical budget requirements. Under Balanced Implementation, present state spending covers three-fourths of the costs. And in fact, the same expenditures used currently by most states can cover the Bare Bones model.

            The report continues to state that though the price tag may seem extremely high at first glance, states can enforce the Common Core through creative ways to maintain the cost to be within their budget. A lot of the costs that are calculated into the system are costs that would otherwise have been maintained had they not followed the Common Core. Therefore, if done correctly, the additional investment could use "the Common Core as the foundation for a significantly improved education system." Clearly, states should not see cost as an excuse to back out, but rather, they can use this as opportunity to become creative with how they transition to the new education standards.