...Here I am, using the same traditional math (though spiral) and science (religious, even!) textbook series for all my kids, less than a thousand grand total investment for 5 kids (!), and I am turning out present and future engineers. All without Common Core!
In my experience, bright, capable, driven kids are always going to do well academically and will be able to compete with top students from throughout the country. My tiny, rural, high-poverty rate, public high school - in Podunk, GA - has graduated a rather decent number of successful physicians, attorneys, professors, financiers, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and other successful folks. And not just "successful" by our local standards, but people who are now working on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, teaching at top national and international universities, performing research you might have read about in well-known publications and scientific journals. And all that before Common Core. Because those kids were always going to do well.
And, frankly, because before No Child Left Behind - may it ever rot in hell - schools actually taught those children at a higher level than their less-gifted peers without being forced to slow the bright kids down to wait for the rest of their classmates. The idea that every child is naturally capable of performing academically at the same level - if you want that level to be high - is idiocy in it's purest form.
I actually have no objection to having national standards for education. What I do see as a problem, though, is that somehow in implementing that plan, the nation as a whole has managed to screw it up rather spectacularly. A combination of mandates from both Common Core and other directives have meant that the common core we're required to implement is in many ways much more middle of the road than what some school districts had before. Why not teach to those higher standards, then? Well, because the rules of Common Core require that you teach A, B, C and D in grade 7 and those children will be tested on and must be proficient in A, B, C and D. There's no incentive, and plenty of disincentives, for teaching anything that's not on those standardized tests. The tests that determine whether that teacher keeps his or her job and whether that school keeps it's federal funding. So, the curriculum becomes locked into conforming to whatever will be tested each year. There's little time, no money, and no apparent benefit to the teacher, school or system, for covering any other material. Your school can't lag behind, but it's also discouraged from jumping ahead. It requires that some schools up their game to keep up. But it also seems to require some schools who were previously high-performing to lower their game so as to match the national standards. This problem seems to equalize out a bit once the kids get to high school - with it's honors, IB, AP, and duel-enrollment courses - and we stop having to pretend quite as insistently that all of the children are the same intellectually and academically and we let the bright ones loose on more challenging material.