Students will go farther faster with Common Core standards

Lauren Williams's picture
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

As the leaders of Achieve, the organization founded by governors and the nation's business leaders to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college, careers and citizenship, it falls to us to address the red herrings and falsehoods made by a small but vocal band of Common Core State Standards critics.

The public should know why 46 states   - along with the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Authority and the National Catholic Educational Association - supported by charter-school organizations like KIPP, business, higher education and the military, have voluntarily adopted the CCSS. It is because these standards are game-changers, and our K-12 system is in sore need of improvement.

The nation's governors joined with state school chiefs and education experts to create a set of common benchmarks for student success that would indicate students' readiness for higher education, the military and good jobs post-high school.

The CCSS in English and mathematics is a triumph of both substance and collaboration. These new standards are more rigorous and significantly clearer than the state standards they replace. The fact that they are shared across states holds the promise that the best practices in education can be replicated across the nation, with better materials and more coherent training and assessment of progress and results.

Some critics want to maintain the status quo. They have broken out the same tired talking points for the past three years to try to defeat an initiative that - if implemented well - has the promise to transform education from a 19th-century model to one that serves the needs of today's students.

These naysayers attempt to scare by claiming the CCSS were created by the Obama administration. In fact, the CCSS were driven by a bipartisan group of governors and state school chiefs. We were part of that effort - side by side from the beginning with governors, state school chiefs, educators and reformers who made it happen.

When the trench work on these standards began, President George W. Bush was in office. But neither President Bush nor President Obama, or their representatives, were at the table, ever. These standards were created by and for states.

There are other canards used by those afraid of change and progress, such as the promotion of Sharia law or the use of facial-recognition software or (insert scary agenda item here) by the standards. We've heard them all, and they are equally absurd.

The fact is the standards are a measured and thoughtful foundation to begin to address the big challenges in how to best educate our young people. We know our students are as smart as those in other countries. We do not have a kid problem in our K-12 education system. We have an adult problem.

And to those who say these standards are not rigorous, one of us has a doctorate in engineering, taught at Stanford for 10 years and rose in the ranks at Intel to become CEO - earning some standing to determine what kind of mathematics preparation is needed for success. The CCSS are elegant, clear and consistent - and they will enable those who wish to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to go farther faster.

Two plus two equals four everywhere, and all kids need to be able to read great literature, understand our founding documents and communicate with comprehension. Students who have the CCSS as a foundation will have options. They'll be better prepared for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes and for postsecondary education and career training without the need for costly remedial classes.

This is the real scandal - the number of kids we graduate who aren't ready for the real world.

The public should read the standards. There's math, reading and writing. They will challenge students to understand and problem-solve and think critically, just like their international counterparts.

They will enable our kids and grandkids - really, all of our nation's children - to be ready for the world they will face, if we support the hard work of educators and students in getting there, while keeping the hysteria to a minimum.

Craig R. Barrett, former CEO of Intel is chair of the Achieve board of directors, and Michael Cohen is its president.

Achieve has developed materials to help states, districts, and others understand the organization and content of the standards and the content and evidence base used to support the standards. Visit http://www.achieve.org/achieving-common-core.