Education: moving forward after Common Core

Monday, June 16, 2014

by Paul Risser

The Oklahoman

NOTE: Paul Risser is the former state higher education chancellor and chairman of the University Research Cabinet at the University of Oklahoma.

Recent debate about the Common Core State Standards has been less than a model of clarity. The result is considerable misinformation, confusion, frustration, unfortunate politics and a possible waste of money and potential loss of state control. Fortunately, with a little patience and flexibility, there is a reasonable pathway forward.

Common Core was created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It involved more than 40 states, attracted thousands of comments from around the country and was supported by numerous teachers, parents, school administrators and other citizens concerned with education policy. Despite this extensive and inclusive process, and the constant reassurances that Common Core isn’t a curriculum, doesn’t tell teachers how to teach or the materials they should use and isn’t an assessment tool, the recent resistance was based on the allegation that somehow the federal government would use these standards to control education and create a national curriculum.

Common Core standards define the goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills that will help students succeed in school, careers and as citizens. Most states will follow Common Core. Thus, of most importance is that each state will know what will be expected from students educated in other states — students who will be competitors as well as colleagues in businesses and other interactions.

Meeting the Common Core standards will increase the rigor in education systems such as Oklahoma’s, which has notoriously weak standards. Finally, adoption of the Common Core State Standards is becoming a kind of seal of approval, indicating to prospective employers that states are committed to producing students who will be nationally competitive and successful. Oklahoma is therefore disadvantaged in several ways if it doesn’t adopt standards based on Common Core.

The way to move forward is to reverse our thinking, recognizing that the goal is to implement Oklahoma-formulated state standards that exceed the Common Core standards. 

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