“Common Core” are the latest buzz words in academic circles that you’re probably hearing regularly these days, whether you’re a parent of a school-aged child, a member of the business community or part of the policy and education world.
But Common Core is much more than a trendy phrase. It describes the academic standards for English language arts and math that are essential for preparing U.S. children in grades K-12 for life and work in the 21st century. The standards are designed to ensure children, no matter where they live, graduate from high school ready for college or to enter the workforce.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the business community supported these standards when the state Legislature passed a resolution directing the state Board of Education to adopt them in 2010. The chamber continues to support them today as a key part of education reform in this state.
“It would be devastating for Oklahoma to walk away from these standards when 44 other states are using them as a way to demand better outcomes,” Greater OKC Chamber Chairman Pete Delaney said. “Our children need us to stand behind them.”
The Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math, combined with the more rigorous Oklahoma Academic Standards that include more subjects, will be in all school districts in Oklahoma by 2014. (For more information, go online to http://ok.gov/sde/oklahoma-academic-standards.)
Working in support of the Common Core standards as the 2014 legislative session gears up, the chamber is part of the Expect More OK! Coalition that includes the Tulsa Regional Chamber, The State Chamber of Oklahoma, The Boeing Co. and the Oklahoma PTA, among other groups.
Oklahoma is one of 45 states nationwide implementing these standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with input from teachers, parents, school administrators and other experts nationwide, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website at http://www.corestandards.org .
The Common Core State Standards are designed to align the nation’s schools with what students should learn. They do not dictate how teachers should teach them nor how states should assess them. (Note: Oklahoma is NOT part of two consortia of states that are developing common assessments but is developing its own method. Source: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/about/member-states and http://www.parcconline.org/about-parcc .)
Individual states and school districts have the freedom to design their own curricula that support the standards. Teachers can tailor their lesson plans to the students in their classroom.
“These new standards place a greater emphasis on critical thinking, rather than memorization, and are designed to better prepare children for post-secondary education or careers,” Fallin said at a press conference in December. At the conference, she announced an executive order to reassure the public that the federal government is not interfering with Oklahoma’s adoption of the Common Core Standards.
“This executive order sets us on the right path: more rigor. Greater accountability. Better educational results. And it clearly states that this effort is to be coordinated in the state of Oklahoma,” Fallin said.
Broad support about the Common Core standards themselves shows that concerns should not devolve into a liberal-conservative debate about whether to use them, nor should Oklahoma reverse course in supporting the standards. This is not a partisan issue. Concerns about how districts are implementing them in the classrooms can be directed to school boards or individual schools, but Oklahoma must not waver in its support of the standards themselves.
There is too much at stake to turn back now.
Only 23 percent of graduating high school seniors who took the ACT college entrance exam in 2013 met all four benchmark scores that indicated they were ready for college, according to the ACT College Readiness Standards. (Source: act.org/newsroom).
The simple fact is that our schools and students need to do better, and Common Core will help.