Over the past three years, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards. These objectives were developed to ensure that America’s students acquire the academic skills they need to reach their full potential.
Yet the Common Core standards are under serious assault by the tea party movement, which argues that they were developed by the federal government ["A new battle for tea party," Washington Post front page, May 31]. This assertion lacks any basis in fact. The Common Core was developed during a year-long process by state leaders — Democrats and Republicans — along with highly respected members of the business community and people in education, including many teachers.
Rather than representing a takeover by the federal government, Common Core shows why states have always led in the area of education policy. State leaders realized that we can best accomplish our goals by working together with common guidelines that allow us to raise the bar for our students and share resources without interference from federal mandates.
Opponents of higher standards also argue that the Common Core will eliminate local control of a school’s curriculum. This, too, is simply not true. Previously, each state had set its own standards; now, the majority of states will have the same ones. Local school boards have had, and will continue to have, discretion in how to work with their schools and educators to teach those higher objectives — from the texts they use to the teaching techniques they employ. The difference is that the expectations for a high school junior in Delaware will be the same as in California.
If the crusaders against Common Core don’t think this is important, they should speak with military families. Their stories — told to support groups and educators — illuminate the benefits of having expectations for students that don’t vary by Zip code and that prepare their children for a global economy. They talk about moving to a new state with better academic standards, and how their kids initially struggle to meet more challenging goals but ultimately flourish beyond the levels that their previous accomplishments would have suggested.
Luckily, though opponents’ voices are loud, they are not the majority. The Common Core effort represents one of the few initiatives so fundamental to the prosperity of our country that it has received support from organizations as diverse as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, teachers unions, the National Parent Teacher Association and the U.S. Army.
Supporters of the standards recognize that we are in a global war for jobs, best characterized as a global war for talent.
According to Gallup, 3 billion people are looking for jobs in a world that has only 1.2 billion good jobs to offer. To compete and win on the global stage, our country’s leaders must demand more of ourselves and do our students the favor of demanding more of them. That means an education that doesn’t just produce diplomas but also gives our students the tools they need to compete with their counterparts around the world for college admission and careers.
The Common Core initiative is driven by the highest international bench marks as well as a thorough, evidence-based study of the skills required for students to attain college and career readiness by the time they don their high school graduation gowns.
We have maintained an intense focus on the ability of our next generation of workers to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real-world situations. In today’s economy, these skill sets are not controversial. They include “writing arguments to support claims,” “using probability to evaluate the outcomes of decisions,” “participating effectively in a range of collaborative discussions” and “making sense of math problems and persevering in solving them.” The Common Core standards will ensure that students gain these necessary skills.
It’s time to focus on the difficult work that comes with effectively implementing higher standards across hundreds of thousands of classrooms. We cannot let fringe movements distract us from this goal, and we cannot let this moment pass. All of us who believe in the Common Core must vocally and visibly debunk the myths — and fight for a future that gives all of our nation’s children the best chance to succeed.
The writer, a Democrat, is the governor of Delaware. He co-chaired the Common Core Standards Initiative.