The Common Core State Standards have been hounded by criticism since Kentucky was the first state to adopt them in 2010. This year, despite what the American Institutes for Research calls "faster progress" in learning, that criticism has not faded.
In fact, it is now being perpetuated by Sen. Rand Paul, who has also declared his candidacy in the 2016 presidential race.
As a high school English teacher who began in the classroom before Common Core, I can say with certainty that the new standards benefit students. They have illuminated exactly what it means to be college- and career-ready. Because the standards are more clearly written, they give teachers the opportunity to focus on instructional strategies that target a multitude of learners in a plethora of ways. And because the reading, writing, speaking and listening standards focus on skills, not content, they are applicable to the aspirations of all students.
What I find so disheartening about the rhetoric of critics is that it is absolutely uninformed. I would like to set the record straight in the hopes that we can have an honest debate on the issues.
The standards are academic benchmarks for what students should learn by the end of each grade level. Nothing more, nothing less.
In 2009, state governors were growing increasingly concerned over students' inability to compete globally. Plagued by inconsistent academic standards, study after study indicated that the U.S. was falling behind, particularly in science and math. Their solution was to ask leading academics to develop Common Core standards.
The more than 40 states that adopted the new standards did so voluntarily and proudly, exercising their rights to improve their educational landscape and ensure high-quality instruction,
Academic standards are wholly different from curriculum. The standards are learning goals for each grade level; curriculum is how school districts and teachers help students achieve those goals.
Research tells us that 28 to 40 percent of high school students entering college need at least one remedial course for which they earn no credit but pay full tuition. ACT outcomes indicate that barely half of high school graduates are ready for college-level reading and just 43 percent can handle math.
Kentucky is among a handful of states that require all 11th graders to take the ACT. The American Institutes for Research recently looked at three data sets related to our tests: students who tested before we implemented Common Core, students who tested after one year of exposure and students who tested after two years.
AIR found that students with two years of Common Core showed faster learning than the other groups. Clearly, the new standards are helping educators do a better job preparing students for success.
Common Core is not a hodgepodge of education theories, as has been alleged. It was written by leading academics and educators, whose work was reviewed by an independent committee comprised of teachers, principals, college professors and education researchers. The vast majority of the committee recently reaffirmed the assessment that the standards will prepare students for the rigors of college and the demands of the workforce.
Every day, I help students read texts closely to understand what they mean and then use evidence from the text to support conclusions. Those who criticize Common Core have not demonstrated mastery of those skills.
We don't have to agree about the standards. But we owe it to the children of America to tell the truth. There may be room for growth in the implementation of the standards, There isn't room for politics or lies.