Last year, the Council on Foreign Relations issued this menacing warning: “The United States’ failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country’s ability to thrive in a global economy.”
This blunt statement may have shocked some, but it came as no surprise to the many intimately involved in education in the U.S. today – parents, teachers, students, local and state leaders, the business community, and countless others.
Decades of lowered expectations for students and lax accountability in schools have led to plateaued student learning, high school graduates unprepared for college, and a workforce struggling to compete with rapidly emerging competitors from every corner of the globe.
USA Today is out this morning with an important piece that shines a light on how low – and often inconsistent – academic standards are holding our students, schools, and our nation back. Calling the initiative a ‘quintessential state effort,’ the editorial calls for support of the Common Core State Standards – one of several key reform efforts that, together, hold the potential to transform America’s quality of education.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: USA Today: Myths fuel attacks on ‘Common Core’ standards
Myths fuel attacks on ‘Common Core’ standards
By: Editorial Board
June 12, 2013
“To understand why the embattled education standards known as ‘Common Core’ are so necessary, let’s take a trip to Tennessee.
“Several years ago, parents of Tennessee schoolchildren thought they had reason to be proud. Based on state standards, a remarkable 87% of fourth-graders were proficient in reading, putting Tennessee students among the nation’s highest achievers.
“Trouble was, that number was a mirage. On more rigorous national tests, only 27% of the state’s fourth-graders demonstrated proficiency. The reason for the 60-point gap was clear: Tennessee and many other states, anxious to meet ambitious and sometimes impossible proficiency requirements set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, were setting low bars or dumbing down tests.
“The efforts to game the system, and other markers of failing education, led state school superintendents and governors to push for uniform standards and higher expectations. The result is the Common Core State Standards.
“The standards provide a road map of where students ought to be in math and English as they move from kindergarten through 12th grade, and one goal is to promote critical thinking as opposed to rote memorization. In ninth and 10th grades, for example, students need to analyze ‘a series of events described in a text’ and determine if there is cause and effect.
“By last summer, 45 states had signed on to this sensible approach. But then a funny thing happened, reopening the debate in several states. Conservative activists and pundits began railing that the standards were part of a federal takeover of education, which of course they dubbed ‘ObamaCore.’
“Talk show host Glenn Beck warned: ‘Progressives have jammed this through in the dead of night.’ The Republican National Committee blasted Common Core as ‘an inappropriate overreach.’
“That might come as a surprise to leading conservatives, such as former governors Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee, who have championed Common Core. The standards are a quintessential state effort. They bubbled up from state school superintendents, later joined by the National Governors Association, where this year 31 governors are Republicans. Common Core was voluntarily approved by states and championed by the business community. It does not mandate curriculum or even texts. That’s still up to states and districts.
“The Fordham Institute found that Common Core raises standards for three-quarters of the states, many of which have standards it judged as ‘clearly inferior.’ Today’s disparities among states leave too many students ill-prepared to succeed in college, much less to compete in the global economy.
“States are in various stages of implementing Common Core. As more teach to the standards, educators, parents and students can judge if the program is delivering on its promise. It would be shameful if a demonization campaign denied students this opportunity for a better education.”