Our View: State Should Adopt Common School Standards

Gadsden Times

We’ll know next week if Alabama will become the 39th state to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative for schools.
Public hearings have been held throughout Alabama and the state Board of Education has scheduled a vote on the issue for Nov. 18. If approved, the standards would take effect for the 2012-13 school year.
We hope the vote is positive.

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The Common Core State Standards Initiative was devised by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Its objective is to develop common standards as to what K-12 students throughout the United States are expected to learn in each grade in mathematics and English language arts.
It won’t be a massive change in Alabama. The state’s standards already cover 92 percent of the common standards in English and 96 percent in math.
A mission statement quoted at the initiative’s website says the standards “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
It’s hard to argue with that mind set – but some people do.
Opponents fear the initiative ultimately could lead to the federal government nationalizing the education system – but the federal government has no direct involvement in it (although participation was a plus in the competition for Race to the Top funds).
Opponents fear it could take away the ability of local school systems to set curriculum – but in this interconnected age, is it wrong to have the same expectation of children in Kodiak, Alaska; El Centro, Calif.; Seneca, Kan.; Skowhegan, Maine; Pompano Beach, Fla.; and Gadsden, Ala.?
Opponents fear teachers would be compelled to teach in a certain manner – but the initiative specifies that teachers (as well as principals, students, school board members and others on the local level) would have complete freedom to decide how best to help students meet the standards.
There’s concern about how much it will cost states to implement the initiative. We’re aware of Alabama’s current economic woes.
However, money shouldn’t be the deciding factor in whether to adopt the standards.
One question should be asked: “Is it the best thing for Alabama’s students?”
We think it is.