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Supporting Common Core State Standards – Part I

Marc H. Morial | 3/10/2014, 7:56 a.m.
“You can’t allow 15,000 school boards to home bake their own little standards subject to their own political pressures and ...

“You can’t allow 15,000 school boards to home bake their own little standards subject to their own political pressures and think we are going to have international competitiveness. We have to at least have some bare minimum core standards if our young people are going to compete.” – Rep. Bobby Scott, Congressional Black Caucus

(NNPA) – There is a quiet – yet increasingly disruptive – revolution underway in American education. Since 2010, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense have adopted Common Core State Standards in their schools. This represents an historic opportunity to raise academic standards and better prepare students for college and good jobs.

If implemented effectively, CCSS will help bridge the achievement gap by leveling the playing field so that all students, regardless of race, geography or income, have an equal shot at gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century global economy. The National Urban League and a broad cross-section of civil rights, public policy, business and education leaders are in full support. But while a majority of states are implementing these new and more rigorous standards in English language arts and math, CCSS remains a mystery to many parents and students, giving its critics an open lane to spread misinformation and undermine progress. Today’s column represents the first of three – and possibly more – that I am writing to help clear up the confusion and set the record straight.

First, let’s clarify exactly what CCSS is and what it is not. It was developed by governors and chief state school officers from both sides of the aisle who brought together teachers, parents, school administrators and education experts to write them. Despite what some of its critics claim, it is not a top-down, “Big Brother” federal program. The states determined that these standards were necessary to improve outcomes for students, and 90 percent of the states within our country have decided that they are critical to better prepare our country’s students for the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow.

Second, we are talking about academic standards, not a standardized curriculum. Its standards establish what students need to learn at each grade level, but does not dictate how to teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms, ideally utilizing the state standards to create even more engaging and educational approaches and content.

In order to move us forward, it was determined that the Common Core State Standards must be:

• Aligned with expectations for college and career success

• Clear and consistent across all states

• Inclusive of content-based knowledge and high-order reasoning skills

• An improvement upon current state standards and standards of top-performing nations

• Reality-based for effective use in the classroom

• Evidence and research-based

Finally, CCSS can only be successful if it is equitably and similarly implemented in a high-quality manner. Given that excellence and equity are inseparable, states, districts, teachers and principals must have the resources and supports necessary to fully realize the promise of CCSS.