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Common Core standards good for NC

The political debate over the Common Core state standards is riddled with ironies and myths to a greater extent than on any issue I have been involved with over the last 50 years!
These standards are a set of clear, consistent goals and expectations which describe what students should know in math and English, no matter where they may live in the United States. That is critical for many reasons, but especially because of the mobility of families, including the military. Why should a student in Colorado need to know more or less than one in North Carolina?
North Carolina has had statewide standards called the N.C. Standard Course of Study for more than 50 years. However, sad to say, objective reviews found that our standards were not nearly high enough to prepare our students to be successful, not only in the United States but anywhere in the world.
For years many public education critics have complained that our tests were “too easy” and because each state had its own standards, we had no way to compare our students with those in other states or throughout the world for that matter. Now we are hearing from those who would reject this improved accountability.
Yes, the standards are higher and that has brought forth some opposition from those who may not want to admit that we are short-changing our students. Frankly, some educators and parents oppose Common Core because of its rigor and the fact that some of our schools aren’t as good as we may have thought under the old system. The standards are certainly free from any political or philosophical point of view. Feel free to visit the website www.corestandards.org and read for yourself.

Others claim this is a takeover of our schools by the federal government. If that were so, I would be leading the fight against Common Core!
The standards were developed at the state level by governors, chief state school officers and their state-based staffs. In North Carolina, the business community actively participated through the North Carolina Business Committee for Education and other advisory groups to the State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
It is important to understand that these are standards, not curriculum. Curriculum, lesson plans and teaching techniques are left up to the schools and states and are designed to meet individual needs. The standards are not set in stone and may be modified. If there are those who think the standards are not high enough, they are free to raise them, but not lower them.
Another reason I support these new standards is the emphasis on developing higher-level thinking and critical analytical skills. This is much more relevant to educating students to be successful in real life than multiple-choice questions.
Many critics are also conservative when it comes to spending tax money, as I am. Tens of millions of tax dollars have been spent over the past several years in the training of teachers in Common Core in North Carolina. To scrap that work and precious time spent by classroom teachers and to waste more time and tax money in developing new standards is mind-boggling.
While compensation for educators is embarrassingly low and unacceptable, over the years I have heard nearly as many complaints about the “flavor of the month” education fads and the failure of politicians to allow necessary time to see if the needed reforms were working. What better example is there than what some are trying to do to Common Core State Standards?

Frankly, much of the opposition comes from those who are opposed to President Obama and are tying him to Common Core in order to gain support for its elimination. They have not been able to defeat Obamacare, which I also oppose, so they are taking on Common Core instead. While the president is an easy target, he is not responsible for it as pointed out earlier.
Kudos to Gov. Pat McCrory and to Democrats and Republicans in the legislature who recognize that the abolition of Common Core would lower standards and expectations for all students and would leave our students at a great disadvantage when they enter the job market and/or higher education. The North Carolina Chamber is also to be commended for their forceful advocacy for Common Core.

Eliminating Common Core for some unknown standards, which would take years to formulate and implement due to their complexity and the massive and costly teacher staff development, would be a huge step backward for a state which once led the nation in improvement in public education due to the leadership of such governors as Democrat Jim Hunt and Republican Jim Martin and to the bipartisan leadership in the General Assembly.
Let’s stick to the facts on this issue rather than the rhetoric which has been thus far very misleading, in addition to the ironies involved in the arguments.

This op-ed represents my views and not those of any particular group or organization.
Kirk is chairman emeritus of the State Board of Education and president/CEO emeritus of the North Carolina Chamber.

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