Editorials

Defending Common Core

Rolesville Middle School students (L:R) Michaela Brown, Julian Stinnett, Armani Rodriguez, Pedro Hernandez and Kaitlin Seagraves work on an assignment in Mary Nelson's Common Core Math 7 Plus class at the school on Feb. 21, 2014.
Rolesville Middle School students (L:R) Michaela Brown, Julian Stinnett, Armani Rodriguez, Pedro Hernandez and Kaitlin Seagraves work on an assignment in Mary Nelson's Common Core Math 7 Plus class at the school on Feb. 21, 2014. cseward@newsobserver.com

Common Core standards have been in effect for roughly five years, since the nation’s top school officials and the National Governors Association got together to establish standard skill levels for high school students in basic courses.

There is nothing wrong with the ideas behind Common Core, namely setting a national standard against which states could measure themselves. The Common Core standards also are good for the students themselves, helping them to figure out where they might fall short in terms of preparation for higher education.

Unfortunately, some politicians, and even some teachers’ groups, have rallied against Common Core, and in North Carolina, a state commission is going to recommend replacing the standards. That’s a bad idea and reflects the political atmosphere rather than the educational one.

There is a feeling on the part of some politicians that Common Core is part of a national conspiracy to make all public schools conform to an arbitrary curriculum. That’s simply not true. Common Core is a way of measuring basic student knowledge. And some teachers believe that Common Core encourages more “teaching to the test” in the name of scores rather than measuring real learning.

Common Core is in fact one tool that the National Governors Association, with Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, represented felt was needed to make certain that students in the United States were all gainingcommon knowledge of the basics.

When students don’t measure up, some Wake County school board members rightly note, that isn’t the fault of Common Core. It may be teachers, it may be parents who aren’t helping their students at home, it make be students wrestling with tougher courses than they’ve had in the lower grades.

But the answer to problems isn’t doing away with standards. It’s helping students meet the standards, which is why the Wake school board long ago signaled its concerns with abandoning Common Core before it has had at least seven years to provide good measurements.

Instead of substituting lesser standards for Common Core, the state should be investing more in public schools to help students meet and exceed the expectations of the Common Core standards. Those who want to abandon Common Core are jumping from a ship that isn’t sinking.

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