Point of View

NC businesses have critical need for Common Core success

September 6, 2013 

The Common Core State Standards for career and college readiness have been the subject of much debate across the nation and in North Carolina. As our children go back to school, it’s important to understand what these standards are and why they matter.

The Common Core State Standards were developed through an open, 20-year process led by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents with input from teachers, educators, business leaders and policymakers. These K-12 standards in English and math have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states, including North Carolina, that participated in their development.

The Common Core State Standards seek to prepare our students for a career in the 21st century workforce and set the bar for what students should learn but not how they should learn it. That decision remains up to each school district in North Carolina. For example, one Common Core math standard states that by the time students are in the third grade, they should be able to multiply and divide within 100. Educators and policymakers have agreed that this represents a baseline of what students should know, but the standard doesn’t dictate what curriculum or methods teachers should use to help students learn that concept or how they should be tested.

Why does this matter? With a rapidly evolving global economy, the educational and workforce landscapes have become increasingly competitive. Today’s students are learning in a world much different from the one we, their parents and grandparents, have known. Whether they go on to college or enter the workforce immediately after high school, today’s students are not competing just with others from the next town or state for the available jobs; they will be competing with people around the globe. The overall pace of education improvement must accelerate in North Carolina so our residents can compete globally for good jobs and so a secure future for all North Carolinians can be assured.

Employers want students who are equipped with real-world learning, problem-solving abilities and a genuine understanding of the skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace. The Common Core State Standards are an essential step to ensure students get that real-world learning – not just memorization and test taking – needed for real, local jobs.

Make no mistake. These career- and college-ready standards are high, and the transition will not be easy. As our state makes the shift, some of the initial results will be challenging. However, our support for the teachers and students who will do the heavy lifting cannot waver. We must give them as much time and support as we can as they move to higher, real-world standards.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, North Carolina’s population is expected to grow by 3 million people by 2030. As these new families, businesses and military personnel come to our state, they must know that our schools are working hard to ensure all students reach these 21st century expectations.

We cannot turn back on this tremendous state-led effort. If we fail to prepare all students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive world, they – and our economy – will suffer.

Helping prepare our children to succeed in an increasingly fierce global marketplace is a goal we should all embrace. Business leaders stand united in our support for the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards for career and college readiness, and I urge others to join us.

Jim Whitehurst is president and CEO of Red Hat, Inc. in Raleigh.

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