Common Core State Standards Level the Playing Field for All Students
By Kim Weber, Missouri PTA President
The Common Core State Standards clearly define the basic standards of math and English that all students should master at each grade level, regardless of where they live. The political pressure in some states to repeal the Common Core dumfounds me – why would parents, educators and legislators not want to be sure that students in their state are getting the same high quality education as students in other states?
My daughters were fortunate in that they attended school in the same district throughout their years in public education. But this was a choice my husband and I made, forgoing possible job promotions and transfers that would have moved us to other states. Among the goals of the Common Core is to have a consistent standard of education so that no matter where a student resides he or she graduates from high school prepared to handle college-level classes or successfully enter the workforce. If the Common Core State Standards had been in place when my daughters were in school, we would not have had to make the choice to turn down job opportunities as we would have had assurance that they would receive the same quality of education in another state.
Research has shown that high school diplomas are not all equal. Research also shows that as many as 40 percent of college students need some kind of remedial coursework just to bring them up to where they need to be to succeed. Although my daughters received a quality education and achieved good grades in school, we were shocked to find that neither was prepared for advanced-level math courses when they entered college. At great financial expense to my family, we endeavored to provide them with extra courses and other assistance just to bring them both up to the necessary academic level.
The Common Core State Standards were developed by leading educators who recognized that the fragmented systems used throughout the United States were not working. The standards increase rigor in every school and provide nationwide clarity and consistency for what all students need to know once they graduate from high school to excel in their studies and the workplace.
In Missouri, legislators recently reached a “compromise” bill to retain the Common Core for at least two years while a working group develops specific Missouri standards. If Missouri students were only ever to attend college in Missouri and only ever to work in Missouri – never once leaving the state to pursue their goals – I suppose the state having its own set of standards might make sense.
Both of my daughters are studying to be teachers in college, and I’m proud that each wants to become an elementary school teacher. Both of them support the Common Core because they recognize the value in having not just clearly and consistently defined grade-level expectations but the flexibility the standards provide them in designing their own lesson plans. Contrary to the rumors swirling about the Common Core, the standards do not dictate how teachers should teach. The Common Core are standards – curriculum is decided by individual school boards, and then schools and teachers design their own lesson plans to meet the curriculum expectations, which are based on the standards.
In my role as president of the Missouri PTA, I frequently use my daughters as a sounding board to get the “inside scoop” on what is happening in our classrooms. Time and time again, when the Sunday dinner conversation turns to educational standards, my daughters tell me that they know that our students can rise to the occasion of learning the materials they need to master their work. Given their own experience of having to work extra hard in college because their educational foundation hadn’t fully prepared them, my daughters understand how important it is to raise the bar and for there to be clearly defined standards for all students nationwide. I sincerely hope that Missouri does not back away from leveling the playing field and increasing expectations for our children via the Common Core.