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National PTA President: A Parent's Praise for Common Core

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National PTA President:  A Parent's Praise for the Common Core

By Otha Thornton

Published May 09, 2014

Picture this: you are a seventh grader whose father is in the military. You and your sister have gotten used to moving every couple of years, based on your father’s assignments. You do your best to fit in at a new school and make friends. But your parents wonder whether the school you left provided you with an education equal to your new one.

As a retired Army officer, I know what it’s like to have to research the quality and competitiveness of a state’s educational offerings. Now I serve as the president of National PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), and I can definitely say that lack of consistent educational standards and accountability are doing a disservice to our children.

I support the Common Core Standards. It has been very disappointing to read criticisms from Erick Erickson and a host of others who are reacting to parts of the program instead of looking at its entirety.

With Common Core, all parents can be assured that their children will
receive similar excellence in their schools.

The fact is, experts from 48 states were involved in drafting the standards, which were also shaped by more than 11,000 public comments. The standards address only the core competencies of English and math and are in no way meant to encompass all of the subjects we expect schools to teach.

But I strongly disagree with his assessment of the Common Core based not just on my own research but from the feedback National PTA has gotten from millions of parents and teachers.

In fact, recent efforts by our association that reached 3 million parents electronically and included face-to-face conversations with 60,000 more parents indicate that 87 percent of those we spoke with support the Common Core.

National PTA represents millions of children in the United States and at Department of Defense schools abroad, and we are uniquely positioned to interact daily with hundreds of thousands and parents and educators. What we hear from both groups is overwhelming support for the Common Core because students are gaining a more substantive understanding of what they are studying.

There is consistency not just among school districts but throughout states – and students, parents and educators all have confidence that high academic standards extend beyond state borders. Finally, we can have assurance that a high school senior in North Carolina is receiving the same quality education as a senior in Colorado.

The most commonly repeated myth about Common Core is that the standards were developed in secret and forced onto the states. This is completely false. The federal government had no role in developing the standards. Forty-five states adopted the standards in a manner consistent with state laws, which are generally developed by state Boards of Education.

Last December, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of its 2012 worldwide testing of 15 year-old students in mathematics, science and reading literacy. The United States scored slightly above average in reading, average in science, and below average in math. This is clear proof that whatever “standards” were in place before Common Core were not working.

As a nation, we have very high expectations for our children. We expect that their grade-school and high-school educations will provide them a foundation for success in their lives.

We do our children a disservice not to couple those high expectations with meaningful assessment and accountability measures. The Common Core standards are not a curriculum – they are benchmarks that every state-developed curriculum must meet.

I recently heard from one of our members, a veteran first-grade teacher in Ohio who has taught under both the former method and Common Core.

Her experience with Common Core has been significantly better for her students. As she related, the Common Core standards do not force her to teach in a way that might not be beneficial for young learners. Instead, she has the flexibility to design lesson plans instead of being restricted to pre-planned lessons.

During February, her students wrote about significant African-American historical figures using narrative writing – a high-reaching goal for such young students but one in which their teacher said they excelled. In fact, this teacher said her students are writing better pieces now than they ever have due to the high standards and flexibility of the Common Core.

My children received an excellent education in all of the schools they attended. With Common Core, all parents can be assured that their children will receive similar excellence in their schools. The many critics of Common Core focus on myths that have no basis in reality. To paraphrase what we all learned in kindergarten, if you can’t speak the truth, then at least stop spreading misinformation.

Otha Thornton is president of National PTA and a member of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.

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2014 State of the State Address

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On Tuesday evening, January 21, Missouri PTA was honored to travel to Jefferson City to attend Governor Nixon's State of the State Address as a guest of the Governor. I hope you were able to listen or watch the speech but if not here is a brief summary of the address and how it related to education.

STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS

Governor Jay Nixon delivered the State of the State Address to a joint session of the House and Senate in the House Chamber on January 21. The State of the State address gives the Governor a chance to present his vision for the state and his budget priorities.

In his address, Nixon emphasized the importance of investing in education, including increased funding for both K-12 and higher education.  The Governor also called on the legislature to help bring federal funds back to Missouri to implement expansion of the Medicaid program.  Nixon also urged to legislature to enact comprehensive reforms to state tax credits and reimpose strong campaign contribution limits.

BUDGET

Governor Nixon also presented an overview of his budget proposal for FY 2015. Missouri's state budget for FY 2015 includes significant increases in funding for education with a total of roughly $493 million in total funding for education programs.

The budget increases K-12 school formula funds by $278 million.  This large increase represents roughly half of current under-funding of the formula, and the Governor supports reaching full funding of the formula within two years.

The budget also provides numerous increases to other education programs: $8.5 million for the First Steps Program, $20 million for the Missouri Preschool Program, $15 million for pupil transportation, $10 million for investment in expanded broadband capacity and $10.4 million to reimburse districts for high needs special education students.

The 2015 budget also calls for an increase of $42 million for higher education institutions, primarily based on meeting institutional performance goals.  The Governor is also requesting an extra $8.6 million for the Access Missouri Scholarship, $17 million for the Academic Scholarship (Bright Flight) Program and $2.7 million for the A+ School Scholarship Program