Why not set the highest educational standards for our kids?
Common Core makes greater demands and raises expectations. There’s nothing wrong with that
The new Common Core State Standards are good for our students and an asset to educators working to prepare kids for today’s world. Each state must find its own way to do this, and we can be proud of the approach New Hampshire has taken.
First, what are the standards? They are English and math goals for what students should learn in each grade. You can read the standards online. It easy — they’re written in plain English. Think, as you read, about your 5th-grader. Look for a standard that you would not want her to learn. I couldn’t find one.
For instance, the new standards call for an increased emphasis on reading, analyzing and writing non-fiction.
One principal said to me, “It was an, ‘OK, you caught us’ moment. We’ve been doing 90 percent literature, but we need to create a better balance to prepare the kids for the knowledge work they will be doing in this new economy.”
Each New Hampshire school must determine for itself how to achieve this improved balance. An English class might still analyze literature while in history class, might write persuasive essays on de Tocqueville or the Revolutionary War.
Every classroom you look into, if the teachers are engaging with the new standards, the kids are the winners. Now, instead of drilling on how to solve each type of math problem, they will learn how to apply math techniques to solving interesting real-world problems.
The new standards make greater demands on the schools and teachers because they raise expectations of our students. There’s nothing wrong with that.
You’ll hear complaints that the new standards are a “federal intrusion.” Not in New Hampshire. We’re a small state with no budget for the research necessary to develop our own standards from scratch, but as the Common Core standards became available, our state Board of Education saw that they were a step forward from what we had been doing. They adopted the new standards as soon as they were ready, with no push from the federal government or anyone.
As you would hope, the U.S. Department of Education wants to fund only states that have high educational standards. It doesn’t have to be the Common Core standards, but even states like Massachusetts, universally acknowledged to set the highest standards, have chosen the Common Core.
Instead of complaining about federal intrusion, we should be proud of our role in the national commitment to preparing our kids for today’s world.
The Common Core State Standards preserve local control in New Hampshire. But local control does not give school districts the right to do a bad job educating our kids. Our Constitution gives every New Hampshire child the right to an adequate education. Our colleges demand it. Our businesses demand it. Our state has an obligation to ensure that our public schools deliver for our kids.
But we can’t go it alone – and we don’t need to. The Common Core State Standards help our school districts deliver for our kids.
Bill Duncan of New Castle is founder of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education.