Why Women Should Fight to Uphold the Common Core Standards
I think that most women acutely understand how much the future of our country depends on how much and how wisely we invest in our children. That’s why so many of us stay at home during our children’s formative years or work part-time or choose careers that give us time to be with our kids. And that’s why women should fight to uphold the Common Core Standards, which are aimed at improving the quality of America’s public schools.U.S. education is mediocre compared to the rest of the world, according to the most recent assessment by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD tested about a half million fifteen-year old students in 65 countries to gauge their competency in reading, math, and science. The U.S. students ranked below average in math among students in the world’s most developed countries and only about average in reading and science.Moreover, a comparison of the 2012 and 2009 OECD test results show that the U.S. is losing, not gaining, ground. In 2009, 23 countries outperformed the U.S. in math; in 2012, 29 were significantly better than we were. In reading, we were outranked by only nine in 2009; in 2012, 19 outperformed us. Yet the U.S. ranks fifth in what it spends on public school education, which makes these results even more disheartening.We are clearly not getting the bang from our educational bucks that we ought to. The goal of the Common Core Standards is to reverse that and assure that every child in the U.S. receives a first rate education.So why have there been so many attacks on the Common Core? Most are based on misconceptions. The latest assault comes from Governor Bobby Jindal, who falsely claims that the Common Core is a “federal takeover of Louisiana’s education standards” that takes away from parents and educators “choice and local control over curriculum.”In fact, the federal government had nothing to do with the development of the Common Core. Rather, the impetus for the standards came from the governors and education commissioners of 48 states. Alarmed by how badly the U.S. education system stacked up against other countries and dismayed by how poorly their schools were preparing students for college or careers, the governors and education commissioners called for the development of uniform standards for what children should be proficient at in order to consider them truly educated.The standards were written by teachers and educational experts from across the country and drew on the latest research as well as what’s been learned from countries that have high-performing educational systems. After many drafts and numerous rounds of state feedback to refine the standards, the final standards were voluntarily adopted by 44 states plus the District of Columbia. In recent months, three states have rescinded the standards — South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Indiana — although the replacement standards adopted by Indiana are simply the Common Core with a different name. The standards do not prescribe a curriculum. Instead, they establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade.For example, in literacy, students are expected to be able to read a text closely, determine what it says explicitly, and make logical inferences from that. Students are also expected to be able to identify central ideas or themes and interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text. The math standards emphasize understanding key concepts and acquiring math skills that can be applied to real-life situations.All of the standards focus on having students develop the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that they’ll need to succeed in college and in 21st Century jobs. Exactly what is taught to achieve these goals, and how it is taught, is left up to state or local school systems.What then led to the standards being conflated with federal control? The Obama Administration linked the adoption of higher standards to eligibility for “Race to the Top” grants and waivers from No Child Left Behind. This was widely viewed as a Presidential endorsement of the Common Core, and for many Republicans, that was the kiss of death. All of a sudden, what had been a bipartisan effort to improve schools, supported by many Republican governors, became characterized in conservative Republican circles, as Governor Fallin of Oklahoma put it, “the President’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing, and teaching strategies.”We women need to do all we can to de-politicize the Common Core Standards by getting out the facts about them, fight to keep them in place, and then hold our schools accountable for reaching these important educational goals.