Point of view

Common core: Essential to NC students competing in the global marketplace

May 2, 2014 

I am deeply concerned about the recent draft legislation regarding the Common Core State Standards released by the legislature’s Committee on Common Core State Standards.

The standards are based on a sound idea conceived in 2009 by a group of bipartisan governors and education leaders, led by former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia.

Unfortunately, the public has been inundated with misinformation and political maneuvering across our state and beyond. We must keep politics out of education.

First, a few facts: Standards are not a curriculum (lessons, texts, teaching materials). They are simply learning goals that identify what students should try to know and achieve in each grade. For example, in kindergarten, children should be able to count to 100. By fifth grade, they should be comfortable using quotes from a text when explaining what the text means. In high school, students should be able to select the best mathematical concept to solve real-world problems, not just memorize equations.

Without any intervention by parties or politics, teachers will continue to create their own lesson plans for their students’ needs based on the standards. North Carolina will continue to determine which texts to use. Districts will continue to create their own curriculum. The standards will continue to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

I was disappointed to see that these facts were overlooked in the recent draft legislation that establishes a committee “to replace the Common Core by exercising North Carolina’s proper constitutional authority over all academic standards.” This is precisely what we did when we chose the common core.

States leaders across the United States saw our international competitiveness was declining and jointly worked with the National Governors Association to establish a common measuring stick that would define academic proficiency across all states. In the past, states could “game the system” by developing their own low standards, creating their own tests and defining what they deemed to be academic proficiency. It was impossible to compare progress across states, and accountability varied from state to state.

The CCSS are internationally benchmarked against countries with students who are surpassing U.S. students. If we want our students to compete globally, we need to seize this opportunity and take advantage of the good work our teachers have been doing for the last two years. Yes, the standards are more rigorous, but superintendents tell me that teaching has dramatically improved and students are making progress.

At SAS, we have been supporting Triangle area teachers in this transition for the past three years. For example, we hold a math summit for 800 teachers on SAS’ campus every summer because we need graduates who are able to think critically and compete globally. Raising the bar across the U.S. is one crucial step in the right direction. We see this as an economic issue, because the quality of our graduates directly affects our state’s economic well-being.

If we repeal the standards in the middle of their implementation, it will be a very long time before our teachers and students recover. North Carolina businesses have always relied on a strong education system. We are headed in the right direction, and we must not turn back now.

Jim Goodnight is CEO of SAS in Cary.

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