Common Core State Standards aren't the enemy
Despite what you might read in the blogosphere, the latest movement in public education reform is not an example of big government run amok.
The Common Core State Standards are not the product of liberal conspirators wanting to brainwash children. Nor are they the result of a conservative plot to undermine public education. They certainly dont live up to the derisive name Obama-core since the president had nothing to do with their development.
The issue with the Common Core isnt whether these ambitious standards are appropriate, because they undoubtedly are. Rather, the question is whether a state such as Oregon and its school districts can dedicate the resources necessary for children to meet the cores rigorous requirements.
School districts in Oregon have been rolling out curriculum based on Common Core standards since 2011. The new standards have generated some controversy in Portland Public Schools and other districts as critics on the right and left complain about a perceived loss of local control. Naysayers also worry, with good reason, about faulty implementation of yet-another educational initiative.
We understand opponents concerns, given the checkered history of education reform in the United States.
The Common Core, however, is different from previous attempts to make U.S. students more globally competitive. These standards werent handed down from on high by Congress and the president. They were developed from the bottom up by governors and chief education officers from all 50 states and they were shaped by input from teachers, school administrators, parents and education experts. The concept is simple: The educational progress of every child should be measured against a common set of standards, regardless of where he or she lives.
These standards are meant to be clear and ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to attend a two- or four-year college, or to enter the work force. So far, 45 states, including Oregon, have adopted the Common Core standards, which specifically target a childs development in English language and math.
The language standards include benchmarks in reading, writing, speaking and listening. The standards grow increasingly complex as a child moves through different grade levels. In math, students in the lower grades start out with the foundation whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and decimals and then progress toward hands-on learning in the areas of geometry, algebra, probability and statistics.
The goal is to have students in every state be competitive with students from throughout the world.
Establishing standards, however, isnt enough to guarantee students will meet steeper expectations. Local school districts are working hard to complete implementation of the core this year, but they still face obstacles related to resources, testing and public perception.
Among the issues are:
All of these issues require patience on the part of parents and the general public. They also require transparency and direct communication from school officials. Progress cannot be measured solely by looking at one years standardized test scores. Something deeper is occurring in classrooms throughout Oregon, and it will take a few years before a change of this magnitude shows up.
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