Debate Club

Keep the Core, but Course Correct to Achieve Its Promise

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As a high school math teacher for 23 years, I had the same hope for all of my students: That each of them would experience success in my class and in life. After all, one of the foundations of equal opportunity in this country is a great education.

[SPECIAL REPORT: A Guide to Common Core]

So when 45 states adopted college and career-ready standards — known as the Common Core State Standards — the vast majority of National Education Association members understood the power of these standards to help students develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in a dynamic economy and world. Educators embraced the promise of providing equal access to high standards for all students, regardless of their zip code or family background.

So why is there controversy about Common Core? First, there are critics on the left and the right who oppose the standards themselves. And second, educators are caught in the middle of an implementation train wreck.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

For those who oppose college and career-ready standards for all students in America, I ask this: Why continue the current patchwork quilt of 50 different sets of state standards of varying rigor that have led to an overemphasis of rote memorization and fill-in-the-bubble tests? Shouldn’t a student in Florida have the same great foundation as a student in Washington? Given the world economy and the transient nature of our workforce, our public education system should equip every student with the skills and knowledge they need, no matter where they live or what career they choose.

The second problem is the abysmal roll-out of the standards. Teachers report there has been little to no attempt to allow them to share what’s needed to get Common Core implementation right. In fact, two-thirds of all teachers report they’ve never been asked to provide their input on implementing Common Core in classrooms.

Too many teachers report having neither textbooks aligned to the standards, nor time to plan lessons and collaborate with other educators. Imagine a professional athlete who has joined a new team being told to run a play without having the team's playbook and without practicing with fellow team members? Yet, that's exactly what most teachers are being asked to do.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Even more disturbing is that most states are requiring teachers to administer old tests that don’t line up with what is being taught. That’s not only a waste of learning and instruction time for students, it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.

There are some states that have engaged teachers up front and provided the time, training, and support necessary to make the standards work. But these instances are the exception and not the rule.

Equipping every student in America with the high level skills needed for college and career success is an academic and economic imperative in a globally competitive environment. We need the commitment of all state policymakers to implement college and career-ready standards correctly by putting students' needs and educators' voices front and center. 

Dennis Van Roekel

About Dennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association.

Common Core

Other Arguments

158 Pts
Attempts to Standardize Education Are Doomed to Fail

No – Attempts to Standardize Education Are Doomed to Fail

Matt Kibbe is the President of FreedomWorks.

120 Pts
Common Core Causes Collateral Damage

No – Common Core Causes Collateral Damage

Mike McShane is a research fellow in education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

109 Pts
Common Core Treats Students Like Soulless Widgets

No – Common Core Treats Students Like Soulless Widgets

Neal McCluskey is the associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.

-75 Pts
Common Core's Intent Is Being Undermined

Yes – Common Core's Intent Is Being Undermined

Charles Barone  is policy director of Democrats for Education Reform.

-89 Pts
Adult Problems Aren't More Important Than Student Needs

Yes – Adult Problems Aren't More Important Than Student Needs

Michelle Rhee is CEO at StudentsFirst and former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.

-144 Pts
Give Common Core Time to Work

Yes – Give Common Core Time to Work

Jack Markell is in his second term as Governor of Delaware and served as co-chair of the Common Core State Standards initiative.

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