Common Core is no threat
Seismic change in an institution as vast as the public education system doesn’t come easy. But the chance to raise the state’s academic proficiency in math and literacy by enacting Common Core standards is worth the turmoil and effort. By the state’s own calculation, 78 percent of college freshmen aren’t ready for college-level work when they arrive on campus. That’s an astonishing number, and irrefutable evidence that the K-12 education system is failing to prepare students for college or the workforce. Florida is far from being alone in this failure, and as many as 45 states agreed over the past several years to enact the Common Core State Standards, which prepare students to compete in a global economy by teaching them to reason and solve problems. It shifts the emphasis away from having students regurgitate facts. Common Core was conceived by associations representing governors and school chiefs and is supported by some businesses and teacher unions alike.Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is an advocate, along with sitting Republican governors Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie. Gov. Rick Scott supports Common Core, and Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett preaches the benefits every chance he gets. This is no liberal scheme. Florida adopted the standards in 2010 and is preparing to introduce them in the 2014-15 school year. It won’t be easy. National education associations, while voicing support for Common Core, recently questioned whether states need more time before implementing them. And a growing chorus of tea party activists are whipping up opposition, claiming the federal government is taking over our local schools. In reaction, lawmakers in a handful of states that adopted Common Core have introduced legislation to temporarily block the standards. We hope Florida lawmakers resist the call to halt Common Core. Halting its implementation would only serve to stop a bipartisan effort to revamp an education system that often fails our children. Instead, Florida lawmakers should do what they can to make certain an orderly and successful transition to Common Core occurs. That includes debunking the false impression that the federal government is dictating curriculum in our local schools. Curriculum will continue to be set by local districts. Common Core will introduce rigorous learning goals meant to ensure students are mastering the curriculum and learning how to think in the real world. It provides a common standard for states to be measured against one another, replacing the patchwork of state standards now in place. The Common Core standards are internationally benchmarked as well, meaning the U.S. will be competing with, and measured against, nations across the globe. The hardest work remains. Common Core represents a significant change for teachers and students, and progress will be measured in years. Teachers must learn how to teach Common Core. The state needs to put new instructional materials in place. A sometimes chaotic transition can be expected. Although these challenges are formidable, they should not discourage the state from Common Core and its bold notion that our children need to compete on a higher level. Critics who debunk Common Core attack its major funding source, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and its embrace by the Obama administration. They point to studies that say national standards are not the answer to educating our children; that a free market offering universal school choice is the answer. But Common Core isn’t about school choice, private funding sources, or ideology. It’s about positioning the richest nation in the world to compete in the emerging global economy. State and local oversight won’t be sacrificed. Make no mistake, Common Core will need to be tweaked and fixed along the way. But the end result makes it a worthy pursuit.