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Educators, parents should embrace Common Core as the way to close education gap

The Common Core Learning Standards developed by the states are critical to closing the educational, and therefore economic, gaps that exists in this country.

The very vocal opposition to the Common Core is confounding – who would argue with setting higher goals for students to reach at the end of each grade in English and math? Much of the opposition to Common Core spills over from complaints about testing, teacher evaluations and the way Common Core was rolled out. These, however, are separate issues.

High Achievement New York, along with the Buffalo Urban League, members of the education reform group America Achieves and the superintendent of Randolph Central Schools in Cattaraugus County recently joined forces in an attempt to set the record straight.

High Achievement New York, around only one year, has support from educators, parents, advocacy groups, businesses and community groups. Moreover, it has impressive backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the foundation primarily responsible for financing and promoting the Common Core. It also has the support of the Helmsley Charitable Trust and Robin Hood, a New York City anti-poverty organization.

Still, the group and its supporters must contend with resistance from some parents and intransigent educators, egged on by powerful teachers unions such as the New York State United Teachers.

The learning standards have been voluntarily adopted by 44 states and the District of Columbia, with each state independently responsible for implementation and each district responsible for creating its own curriculum. Fully embraced, it offers opportunity for students of every demographic and economic background.

The idea is to better prepare children for college and the work world. As Buffalo Urban League President and CEO Brenda McDuffie said, “We see it as a civil rights issue” to ensure all children are prepared to find work and succeed in today’s economy.

The world, tightly stitched together through the Internet and social media, has become smaller and competition is challenging America’s dominance. Recognizing the shortcomings of our education system, the states and education experts designed a set of common goals in English language arts and mathematics for kindergartners through 12th-graders to prepare students for college and the work force.

As McDuffie pointed out, too many students are entering college without the proper preparation. Those still needing remedial course work tend to get discouraged and drop out, to the dismay of parents who had no idea their children were being ill-prepared in high school. This is a problem especially evident in urban school districts.

Parents who understand that the standards offer opportunity tend to embrace the idea. So do teachers. Randolph Superintendent Kimberly Moritz minces no words in describing her disappointment when dealing with intransigent opposition. She has been able to turn some of that opposition around, helped by the small size of the district but also by a determination to set forth facts to counteract conjecture.

Parents and educators, no matter what their opinions are on testing and evaluations, should be in favor of higher goals. Students can and will achieve under the more rigorous standards, and will be better off having met the challenge.