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The 81 Percent: Why High Academic Standards Matter

• ExcelinEd

debunking mythsYesterday, Education Week released its “Diplomas Count 2013” report, announcing that the Education Research Center has found the nation has reached an almost historic high graduation rate of nearly 75 percent. That’s up eight percentage points in the last decade. This is encouraging education news to celebrate, but also to put into context.

According to a recent
 ACT study, the three-quarters of students who do achieve a high school diploma are not ready for college coursework and often need remedial classes at both the university and community college levels.

That means only 25 percent of students who actually graduate from high school are ready for college. Incorporating the dropout rate, the percentage of students who attended high school and are ready for college-level challenges is a disturbingly low 19 percent.

The cause, in many cases: low academic standards.

For decades, the education establishment has lowered standards. The results have been inflated test scores, aligned to sub-par standards and generations of Americans unprepared for college or workforce.

To tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our time, more than 45 states have voluntarily come together to advance higher, more rigorous academic standards. The Common Core State Standards initiative, now being implemented in dozens of states across the nation, dramatically raises expectations for students.

Unfortunately, misinformation about the Common Core State Standards initiative continues. In our latest edition of Common Core Myths v. Facts, we take on pressing questions about the rigor and integrity of the standards. A sample of this information is below, but please take a moment to visit additional facts at:

Myth v. Fact: Examining the Rigor and Academic Integrity of Common Core State Standards

Claim: Common Core was actually lowering standards in their children’s schools. Instead of many arithmetic problems, the homework would contain only three or four questions, and two of those would be explain your answer. Like, ‘One bridge is 412 feet long and the other bridge is 206 feet long. Which bridge is longer? How do you know?’

  • While this question may seem simple on its face, the higher expectation under the Common Core State Standards is that students will not only be able to know the correct answer but also understand and communicate “why” that is the correct answer. This requires greater critical thinking skills that will ultimately prepare students for more challenging coursework and real-world applications.
Claim:   “…according to a scholarly 2011 content analysis published in Education Researcher by Andrew  Porter and colleagues, the Common Core math standards bear little resemblance to the national curriculum standards in countries with high-achieving math students.”

  • Research by William Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State, a leading expert on international mathematics performance and a previous director of the U.S. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (U.S. TIMSS), found that no state’s previous math standards were as close a match (a 90 percent consistency rate) to those of high performing countries as the Common Core.  Not even Massachusetts, which is widely viewed as having the highest standards in the nation.
Claim:   “State legislatures and parents were cut out of the loop in evaluating the standards themselves or the cost of implementing them.”

  • All states received at least four full drafts of the proposed standards throughout the process, with smaller reviews and feedback periods throughout the process. In addition, there were two public review and comment periods. Nearly 10,000 comments were received to help shape the final draft.  Of those 10,000, 20 percent were parents.
  • The development and review process included a wide range of stakeholders, including principals, teachers, parents and state leaders, including chief state school officers.
  • In more than 30 states, state law or the State Constitution designates the State Board of Education as the entity with oversight of adopting state standards. Most state laws and codes require State Board of Education meetings to be publicly noticed, open to the public and allow for public testimony.  In some states, such as Indiana, legislators sit on the Indiana Education Roundtable, which was briefed about CCSS three times in 2010.
If you are interested in learning more right now, check out more ‘myths v. facts’ about the standards here:

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