Editor’s note: Wendy Howard is executive director of Florida Alliance for Choices in Education, a group that includes a wide range of school choice organizations, including Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog. A shorter version of this post ran this week as a letter to the editor in the Tampa Bay Times. Given Wendy’s conservative political bent, her staunch support for school choice and the concerns about Common Core, we thought it worthwhile to share a fuller version.
With attacks on the Common Core State Standards for education coming from both sides of the aisle, what are parents to think?
I’ve heard Common Core is Obama’s agenda to indoctrinate our children. I’ve heard it’s an unconstitutional federal takeover. I’ve even heard it’s a scheme to perform experiments nationwide on our next generation. After doing some research, I learned none of those concerns hold water. The bickering continues, however, while our children suffer the consequences.
The fact is, our kids need higher standards for education. Let’s look at a couple of disconcerting facts from the perspective of a parent with two children attending a public charter school.
Forty percent of Florida’s class of 2013 who took the ACT college entrance exam were graded “not college ready” in any subject, which is higher than the national average of 31 percent. As a parent, this has huge financial implications. If my children are part of these statistics, I will have to pay for remedial classes in college, something I simply cannot afford. As a taxpayer, I expect my child’s diploma to mean she actually succeeded in high school and can move right into college courses. As a nation, millions of kids and their parents are impacted each year when that turns out not to be the case.
Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.
Here’s another troubling statistic: Thirty percent of high school graduates can’t pass the U.S. military entrance exam, which is only focused on basic reading and math skills. At what point does the lack of high standards become a national security issue? If the learning gap between the U.S. and other countries continues to rise, which country becomes the next super power? What does our country look like in 20, 40, 60 years? I guess that depends on whether we look at the achievement gap between the U.S. and other countries as a crisis – or another issue we kick down the road.
As if that’s not enough cause for concern, the U.S. has more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs vacant because there are not enough qualified people to fill them. Even though studies show much progress in Florida, such as a 21 percent increase in high school graduation rates between 1999 and 2010, we are not where we need to be. There is much work to be done. We must raise the bar.
Our children will meet those expectations once we work together and stop fighting one another. Education must be about the children and no longer about the adults, no matter what your political beliefs. We cannot continue to let politics take over and allow our next generation to keep falling behind.
While some of the criticism about Common Core is rooted in valid concerns about protecting our children’s privacy and our state’s freedom, the drama is misdirected. One of the conservative sites I follow put out a top 10 list of reasons to oppose Common Core. In many cases, it stretched the truth.
So, as a conservative parent and supporter of Common Core, the question I raise to those who oppose it is: then what? What are your ideas to close the learning gap and make our state and our nation’s high school diplomas have real value? Instead of attacking sensible standards, show me how you plan to help students be college and career ready.