High school graduation rates across America have reached an all-time high, yet only about one-third of students are graduating with the reading and math skills that are needed to be successful at a two- or four-year college.
That should be of concern to every parent as children across the Lima region head back to school. It is the flashing lights that students are being “pushed” through school instead of earning their right of passage; that too much time may be spent on texting and not enough on math or reading.
The solution has been the nationwide Common Core standards, which continue to be debated today. Sadly, polling shows that the large majority of Americans know nothing about the standards, despite the fact that they are being implemented in 46 states.
In a nut shell, the arguments go like this:
• Supporters assert that Common Core is a set of national mathematics and reading standards that will transform American education. Every student in America will have the same goals. It wants to ensure that “proficient” means the same thing in Alabama as Ohio, and we’re talking about the classroom, not the football field.
• Opponents argue that adoption of the Core was federally coerced, the standards are of dubious quality, and one size simply cannot fit all. They believe decisions about education are best made on the local level.
The debate has been mired in partisan politics far too long.
To set the record straight, there is no evidence that most Core opponents or advocates have ill-intentions. Bill Gates is not funding Core advocacy for any reason other than he thinks it is beneficial, or that opponents are motivated by anything other than concern that the standards are inadequate, or amount to dangerous national standardization.
The basic concept of Common Core — accountability — is a good one. Common, rigorous national standards will improve outcomes. But there is also a need for states, local districts and parents to be able to mold Common Core into what fits best in their classrooms.
Some of each is starting to happen.
This year no state legislature passed a repeal of their Common Core standards, despite nearly 50 bills nationwide aimed at doing so. Instead, three states — Louisiana, Tennessee and New Jersey — launched reviews to hone and build on the standards further.
This is exactly what Common Core was designed to do: to better ensure schools are meeting their responsibility of helping students achieve higher levels, and to reduce the huge proportion of people arriving at college or workplaces without the skills needed to succeed.
Implementation of these higher standards has been a difficult task.
A school’s lower test scores can have a negative impact with parents and community members who pass the levies that fund schools. But tougher standards don’t mean students are not as smart, or teachers any less capable. It simply means the bar is being raised to the level that students need to succeed in a competitive environment.
As this is being done, students – with support from educators – will start to meet and exceed these higher expectations.