By Eric Hargis, Executive Director of the National PTA
Like many Americans, I have relocated several times in order to move ahead in my career. As a California native, I certainly expected things to be different moving to New York City, to Atlanta and to Washington, DC. From weather to clothing styles and customs, things are not the same from one state to the next. But one thing that must be the same regardless of which state you live in is a quality education for our children.
As a parent, the Common Core State Standards provide my wife and me with a clear understanding of what my children are expected to learn at each grade level, K through 12, regardless of what state the job takes our family (with the exception of a notable few). That the Standards are evidence-based and developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts gives me confidence that my kids will graduate fully prepared for college.
Unfortunately, like so many other issues, the Common Core State Standards are surrounded by myths and are being misrepresented for supposed political gain; the incredible value that the Standards provide to parents wanting to be fully engaged in their children's education makes this all the more dangerous and could represent a huge loss to our education system in America.
Bashing anything done by the Federal Government, always a popular sport in America, has now reached Olympic class status, and there are those claiming that the Standards are a government take-over of education and call them "Common Core National Standards." This isn't even a Pinocchio stretch of the truth, but an out and out lie. The truth is, states are driving this process and have been involved at every level — from the drafting and development stages through revisions and the final product.
In fact, states voluntarily adopted the Standards. States can even go above the content of the Standards by 15% to cover content that they feel is important but not currently a part of the Standards. Importantly, states and school districts still have autonomy in decisions made on how to teach the Standards in the classroom.
At the same time, as a parent, I will be assured quality and consistency in my children's education regardless of where we live. While most all members of state and district education boards pursue only the highest of academic standards, one need only watch the television talk shows to hear what a few believe should be taught as science and history. Let's keep them on the talk shows and out of our classrooms!
As we all know too well, business in Washington and in many states is driven by partisan politics. Despite the proven effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards, they have become an easy target for a bickering Congress, and divided state and local leaders. The American people are tired of the political games that are hurting our children. We want our government leaders to come together to ensure that our children receive a better education than we did. Those states that have still not adopted the standards for purely political reasons are doing their state's students an incredible disservice.
Empowering parents to be involved in their child's education is the cornerstone of what we do at PTA. In this difficult economy, many parents are focused on getting food on the table, finding a job, or simply making it through one more day. The PTA works to reach every parent, providing them with tools and resources to be involved in their child's education at every level. In our work on Common Core we have seen what a parent armed with information can do: One parent saved her school district $50,000, money that was to be used to buy new curriculum — curriculum that, at that time, would not have been aligned to the new Standards. These savings are a teacher's job for a year, new books for the library, or an investment in technology to improve learning. Family engagement is crucial for Common Core and it is because of examples like these that we know we are on the right track toward improving the education system in our country.
Common Core is the first effort of this kind in the education system and all schools will be better served during this process of aligning standards. We have seen what states can do when they work together. They share resources and best practices, enabling everyone to come out ahead. When schools are working, our children succeed. That is every parent's ultimate goal and one that we can realize with the Common Core State Standards.
Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.