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Guest views: Common Core raises the bar for schools

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September 13, 2013

As Wisconsin students settle back into classrooms, they might notice something is a little different this fall. K-12 teachers push them a little harder, and the homework is a little more challenging.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative for English and mathematics are here. Despite a few naysayers, they offer real hope of change for the better.

Tea party conservatives call them Obamacore, a big government imposition that ignores what local communities want taught. Educators say they undermine their ability to teach properly, overriding curriculums used for years.

It's true the Common Core is a national initiative, one adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. But it did not originate with the Obama administration. Rather, the bipartisan National Governor's Association and Council of Chief State School Officers worked with educators, nonprofits and industry to develop them.

It's also true Wisconsin teachers cannot stick with their old curriculums, at least not the ones that saw students lag behind peers in other nations. But local schools still have considerable flexibility to choose specific instruction. An analysis by the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau calls the standards “a foundation, driving a curriculum's design and concepts.”

The Common Core's rigorous demands could prove particularly valuable in Wisconsin. Prior standards were vague and inadequately prepared students for college or career.

It's not just about Wisconsin, though. State-by-state, students and teachers will be held to higher standards. They will learn not just facts, but also how to think critically. That's good for a nation that wants to remain at the fore of research, industry and culture.

Even the GED test will implement Common Core, perhaps better matching a high school equivalency to a diploma in the eyes of employers.

It might be rough going the first few years. Teachers will have to step up their games, and students will have to master tougher material at a younger age. As all involved become used to new expectations, the public will be able to evaluate the Common Core's success by the most important metric of all: Student success.

—The Wisconsin State Journal



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