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Common Core Foes Ponder Next Steps But Don't Root for Failure

For my story about opponents to the Common Core State Standards published Feb. 4 on the website, one aspect of the push-and-pull I didn't get into was how those opponents want the next generation of content standards to be developed. A few of them stressed to me that they aren't simply taking a negative approach to the common core argument.

Beyond rejecting the common core, states should return to sharing and improving on one another's standards, said Jim Stergios, the executive director of the Pioneer Institute. He told me that consortia of states working together in the past is an example of of how different experts from different places can work together without the string-pulling from the federal government.

"I want them to out-innovate each other," he said, of states.

Despite the predicted score drops on the new common-core assessments in 2014-15, Mr. Stergios said he would not "bet against" students and hope for proficiency rates to plunge as a way to prove his point. He also said he didn't care if he had unusual political bedfellows like Glenda Ritz, the new Indiana superintendent who is skeptical of the common core and wants the state to study it further.

But he also predicted that under the common core, the relationship between states will be stifling, not innovative.

"I'm going to be interested to see how they set cut scores in both Massachusetts and Mississippi," Mr. Stergios said, referring to the upcoming common-core-aligned tests. "I'm very interested in watching that dance."

A more gradual step for opponents, said Jonathan Butcher, the education director at the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute who fought against the common core when it was being considered by ALEC, would be to persuade states to leave high-performing charter schools "free to choose their curriculum" regardless of what the new standards may demand. A 2008 Georgia law, for example, could pave the way for that flexibility, he said.

"The common core is another example of regulation that determines how charters have to operate," he said.

This notion of flexibility for non-traditional public schools is a theme that Indiana Sen. Scott Schneider, the lawmaker who introduced the bill to require his state to drop the common core, also touched on. In Schneider's case, he's concerned about private schools bending their curricula to the common core in order to qualify for vouchers.

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