This summer one of my second-grader’s friends will be moving from Huntsville, Alabama, to the Washington, D.C. area. She was one of the top students in the class and will likely do well wherever she goes to school. Her father is in the Army, so she will probably move a few more times before she graduates from high school.
The level to which she will be prepared for third grade, however, will depend on where her family decides to live. If they select a school in the District of Columbia, she will be on track in math because both D.C. and Alabama have implemented the Common Core State Standards in math. If they choose to live in Virginia, there will be some math content that she will lack – for example, fractions. Virginia introduces them in Kindergarten; Common Core states wait until third grade.
Alabama will implement the Common Core in English language arts this year, ensuring that students who move among the 45 states that have adopted Common Core will have the same skills as their grade-level peers in both math and English. This is a huge improvement over the patchwork approach to education standards that predated the Common Core.
Recent efforts to repeal the Common Core across the country have rallied supporters in the business, education, and defense communities. Business leaders support Common Core because it brings the same assurance of quality to education that ISO standards bring to the world of commerce. Educators support Common Core because it establishes clear and rigorous benchmarks for them to achieve with their students. And the defense community supports Common Core because it keeps military and contractor dependents on track throughout their elementary and secondary years.
In Alabama, the Chambers of Commerce of the largest metro areas banded together to oppose multiple repeal bills in our state legislature. The state’s business council opposed the repeal bills as well, identifying Common Core as an education priority. And the defense community – the economic driver in the Huntsville area – stood up for Common Core, from the contractors to active duty commanders to retired general officers. They all understand the value of rigorous expectations that do not change as students cross state lines.
Without Common Core, students will miss opportunities and find themselves ahead of or behind their classmates, depending on the subject and grade level. I know because I was one of them. Back in the 1980s, at the end of my seventh grade year in Alabama, I made the highest score in my middle school for math placement, assuring me a spot in the advanced math course in eighth grade.
That summer, my father – an officer in the Army – was transferred to Germany, where I was enrolled in a Department of Defense school. There, in competition with students from all over the United States, my score didn’t stand up, and I did not take advanced math, setting a trajectory that precluded other upper-level math and science courses that would have opened additional college and career options. A common standard across the country at that time could have better prepared me to be competitive with my grade-level peers. The Common Core State Standards do just this.
The Common Core State Standards are exactly what we need in order to provide all students with the best education possible—an education that is rigorous and consistent and that will prepare them to be successful in college and career.
Lucia Cape is Vice President of Workforce and Industry Relations, Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County (AL)