Tennessee on the right path by joining Common Core State Standards

Posted on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

The push for Tennessee to join the Common Core State Standards – a nationwide effort to conform education standards so that a high school diploma from, say, New York, is basically the equivalent of one obtained in other states – began with a simple bad grade.

Tennessee education failed in truth in advertising. Essentially we were telling ourselves and the world that our students were adequately educated to join the workforce or go to college when they were actually woefully lacking in certain areas of their education.

The fix was to ramp up and voluntarily join the Common Core State Standards, which are benchmarks. These are the things students should learn before being able to graduate and consider themselves well educated in math and English.

The CCSS are designed to allow teachers, students, parents and the community a level understanding of what is expected and what is necessary to succeed. Our commitment to the Common Core means that students in Tennessee can expect to walk away from school with a degree and an education comparable to a student from another part of the country.

A vast majority of states have signed onto the project, which is good news as America’s children will be competing with children from around the world in a global marketplace.

For decades American science and math were the envy of the rest of the world but recently we have been surpassed. If we expect to remain at the forefront of world innovation and technology, Common Core Standards will be at the heart of that movement.

However, some states are already starting to see a push back. In fact, the Tennessee State Senate today convened a meeting to discuss the CCSS and the implications. Some fear the very idea of a national set of standards, even though they are not federally mandated nor a function of the federal government. Some want to keep education under as much local purview as possible. Here it is important to stress that the CCSS is not a curriculum, it is not mandating how students should be taught. All it does is make sure that each state’s education system is on a level playing field in terms of expectations and that the end goal in Tennessee is the same as it is in other state.

There will be more opposition to come. Parents accustomed to their kids making A’s and B’s are suddenly seeing more C’s, D’s and even F’s. The rigor of school just got a lot tougher and the transition for many has been tough. While it is easy to sit back and take the long-term view when thinking of education in general, it’s a very different thing when the short-term affects are hurting your child’s report card.

But it is imperative that we not turn back. The American education system from college down is undergoing an overhaul. Realizing the Common Core State Standards will be essential for Tennessee to succeed in the near future both as it sends its student on to college and then as they compete in the global marketplace.

The standards will allow teachers more time to go in depth with a subject, improving a child’s understanding rather than focusing on conveying enough cursory knowledge. The standards provide clear and concise learning targets that encourage students show their true understanding of the subject. They focus on children gaining knowledge, critical thinking skills, not just memorizing facts and figures.

The diagnostic elements of the standards give teachers real feedback that can benefit the students. The tests will help teachers be aware of the nuances in which they may need to improve focus, or change tactics. It helps the students get the targeted support they need.

At the end of the day, Tennessee has set itself on a path to better educating its youth. It’s not the easy path, but it’s the right path. Please help us encourage our leadership to stay the course and stay on the right path.

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