When it comes to the health of your children, you have the highest expectations of the doctors and hospitals caring for them. You maintain a level of trust that these healthcare professionals will meet your expectations. Doctors and hospitals also are expected to meet both medical and community standards of care for all patients that are established for the medical profession and that can be applied under the law. It would stand to reason that having a “standard of care” for the teachers and schools carrying out the vital job of educating our children would be just as important. Unfortunately, all teachers do not teach to a common standard across the nation. Depending upon the state, there are different standards and expectations for teachers to use to plan instruction.
Why do we have so many different sets of standards?
The U.S. Constitution gives each state control over its public education system; therefore, it is each state’s right to determine and define what students in each grade level should know and be able to do. As a consequence, there are 50 different sets of state education standards across the United States, meaning that there are different levels of expectations and goals for student learning.
As a teacher working in schools today, I know that education is the most powerful catalyst there is for helping children become productive and successful members of society. We need to prepare all of our children to enter and succeed in college and in meaningful careers. All children deserve equal access to an excellent education. Currently, however, children are taught at higher or lower levels based upon their zip code. Not only is this inacceptable on an ethical level, but also it gives the impression that we do not expect all students to contribute to society as productive citizens.
Establishing common education standards is one way we can work to address the disparity between standards to ensure that all children, regardless of geography, socioeconomic status, or life history, receive an education that values their potential.
Common standards are good for students because:
- They help prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.
- They help make transitions smoother for students moving to different states or districts because the learning goals remain consistent.
- Clearer standards help students understand what is expected of them and allow them to engage in more self-directed learning.
Common standards are good for parents because:
- They help parents understand exactly what students need to know and be able to do at each step in their education.
- They help facilitate conversation between parents and teachers about how to help their children reach those education goals.
- They assure parents that their children have access to the same high-quality education other students receive in other parts of the country.
Common standards are good for teachers because:
- They allow for more focused professional development and promote collaboration.
- They can inform the development of a curriculum that promotes deep understanding for all children.
- They can give educators more time to focus on depth of understanding and richer units of study rather than focusing on “fitting everything in.”
Currently, 48 states and three territories have voluntarily joined the Common Core State Standards Initiative to agree on a common set of standards for all students. Two organizations representing states, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are facilitating the initiative. The standards will be research- and evidence-based and will clearly articulate expectations to parents, teachers, and the general public regarding what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school and at graduation from high school. National PTA has announced its support of the initiative.
The initiative will begin by developing common learning standards for mathematics and language arts. The goal is for these standards to be completed for grades K–12 by 2010, at which point states will begin to adopt them on a voluntary basis.
Student success is the result of the collaborative work of educators, parents, policymakers, and the broader community to better understand what students need to build a promising future. For more information, please visit www.corestandards.org.
Sarah Baird is a national-board-certified K-5 math coach in the Kyrene School District, Tempe, Arizona. She was named 2009 Arizona Teacher of the Year. Baird is a member of the Common Core State Standards Initiative Validation Committee.