NC business leaders back the Common Core

September 18, 2013 

It was both encouraging and disheartening to see Triangle business leaders come out Tuesday in support of the Common Core standards for public schools.

It’s encouraging to see them stand up for the national math and English language arts standards being rolled out across North Carolina. It’s disheartening that they feel they have to.

The business community’s support is welcome and unfortunately needed in the face of a hard push from the hard right to dump the program. Some tea party types see the setting of national standards as a socialist plot to indoctrinate the nation’s youth. Others simply resist the idea of schools across the nation trying to achieve or exceed a common standard of competence in math and English.

“The battle is on!” declared conservative commentator Glenn Beck, one of the leaders of the resistance. “This one you cannot lose because of the dire consequences: a loss of parental sovereignty, state sovereignty and the loss of our children into a grotesque system.”

In North Carolina, the battle flag has been taken up by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who by virtue of his office is also a member of the State Board of Education, which adopted the Common Core in 2010. Forest says in a YouTube video that the “one-size-fits-all” set of standards goes against the “customization” of curriculums when every state had its own approach. Adopting the Common Core in North Carolina, he said, “is a course of no return” into an unknown realm of K-12 education.

How do you respond to such baseless and paranoid objections to a sensible plan drawn up by two groups that are hardly radical: the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers?

You respond by pointing out, as the business leaders did, that the Common Core is common sense. The nation’s school systems need to do a better job of preparing students for college and for increasingly complex jobs that require a solid foundation in math and English.

Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, noted that North Carolina needs to improve the quality of K-12 education or business will face a serious gap between job openings and suitable applicants. “By 2022, if we don’t find a way to gin up our commitment to education, we will be 46,000 people short of the kinds of workers that we need in the workforce,” he said.

Ann Goodnight, director of community relations for SAS Institute, said that the Cary software company receives 60,000 job applications a year but that top jobs in statistics, operations research and econometrics can take two years to fill.

“We have fallen from No. 1 in the world in the percentage of young adults with a college degree to No. 12 out of the 25 industrialized nations,” she said. “We have to raise the bar on our students.”

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the Common Core State Standards. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce. The standards make clear to parents, teachers and students what constitutes a competent skill level in reading, writing, speaking and mathematics.

Far from indoctrinating students, the standards will free them to thrive at the college level or in workplaces that require the ability to read well, communicate effectively and solve problems. This goal is especially important for students from low-income areas where the “customization” Forest touts often means systems with low standards that routinely graduate students who lack the skills expected of an educated person and needed for better paying jobs.

The idea of standards isn’t new. States have had them for many years. What’s new is the effort to set standards nationwide so schools will equip their students with the skills they and employers need. The Common Core does not dictate curriculum. It sets clear goals that the educational process should meet.

It’s good that business leaders have become advocates for a program that seeks to fill gaps in public education and increase the number of graduates ready for college or work. While Beck, Forest and others raise a fuss, business leaders are helping schools raise the bar.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service