As we approach the four-year anniversary of the Common Core State Standards, it is an appropriate time to remember why and how they were created. We should take this chance to look beyond the difficult but expected obstacles we face in getting the standards up and running, and remember the opportunity they present for children across our country if implemented well.
Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and I co-chaired the initiative to create the standards because we shared the concerns of lawmakers, teachers, school leaders, businesspeople, and parents that expectations for our students were not high enough to prepare them for life after high school. Although the effort was entirely voluntarily, 45 states ultimately adopted this set of fewer, clearer, and more rigorous standards in English language arts and mathematics. With the input of educators, policymakers and experts, we laid out the knowledge and skills students need to be prepared for college and career opportunities and set practical bars for them to achieve.
In today’s economy, these goals are not controversial, like ensuring fourth-graders can multiply large numbers and write an essay. Other standards include “writing arguments to support claims” and “using probability to evaluate the outcomes of decisions.”
Although still in the early stages, these standards are already making a difference in classrooms across the country as teachers find innovative ways to help their students rise to the new expectations. In Delaware, elementary students are building toy sail cars to understand the concepts of force and motion. As one of their teachers said, the hands-on practice students “are getting now is teaching them way better than any worksheet or textbook.” Efforts like these are precisely what the Common Core was developed to encourage and the reason that unlikely coalitions of Democrats and Republicans, as well as business leaders and union presidents, are urging states to resist political pressures and stay focused on implementing the standards well.
As this school year concludes, I am excited about what Common Core has already accomplished for Delaware’s students, and what lies ahead. The combination of higher standards, teacher collaboration, and our investments in comprehensive data systems are transforming education in our state, and we’re beginning to see results. Our dropout rate is at a 30-year low, more ninth-graders are on track to graduate, and all of the state’s college-ready high school seniors have applied to at least one institution of higher learning – up from previous years when nearly one in five did not.
Common Core is essential not only for the success of our students, but also for the success of our economy. Our companies have more choices than ever in where they choose to locate, in America and around the world, and they will go where they can find the skilled workforce they need. States must now ensure we give our schools and teachers the resources they need to rise to the occasion. Our students of today, and our workers and businesses of the future, are counting on us.
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