Critics misfiring on Common Core

Editorial, The Denver Post, February 14, 2014

The recent furor about Colorado's adoption of the Common Core academic standards has a puzzling sense of deja vu about it. Wasn't this debated in 2010? Didn't the opponents lose? And weren't the Colorado Academic Standards, which broadly overlap the Common Core, the subject of a two-year statewide conversation prior to adoption? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes. Colorado has been there and done that. Given that history and our longstanding support for the new standards, we were glad to see the Colorado Senate education committee on Thursday put an end to an effort to stall implementation of the new standards. There has been a troubling backlash brewing nationally against the voluntary standards, adopted by 45 states, one that is fueled by a disjointed confluence of interests on the right and left of the political spectrum. Some believe the core is an effort to undermine local control and create a national curriculum, which it is not. Standards broadly specify what a child should know. Choosing the materials and methods to instill that knowledge is the same matter of choice it always has been for states and districts. Others think the standards are too tough, and will increase reliance on standardized testing. Yes, Common Core does set a higher bar than has been the norm in many states, including Colorado, but that's a positive development. Common Core, in conjunction with the Colorado Academic Standards, will improve the rigor of what students should know in various subject areas and grades. They will provide a roadmap for learning intended to prepare the state's students to be ready to go to college if they choose. And for those who think our schools are sufficiently rigorous already, keep in mind that 40 percent of Colorado students who enroll in state colleges and universities need remediation in at least one subject. Colorado has worked hard to align its expectations for students from elementary school to college in an effort to ensure they have the tools to continue their education after high school graduation. But even if students choose a route different from college, these skills will serve them well in pursuing careers that pay good wages and provide an opportunity for advancement. That's one of the reasons why chamber of commerce types and business leaders are on board. They need a workforce that can do math, think critically and write. Colorado should do better by its students, and higher standards are one part of the equation in bringing students up to par. The measure that was killed in the Senate on Thursday after a 6 ½-hour hearing would have delayed by a year the institution of new online tests, and created a committee to review the standards. It was an effort to derail progress by re-examining matters that already have been thoroughly vetted and discussed. The state Board of Education heard nearly four hours of testimony in 2010 before voting 4-3 to adopt Common Core. And that came only after an exhaustive process involving educators, business leaders and the public in creating Colorado's standards. Despite what some are saying today, there was nothing under-the-radar about the way the standards were created and adopted, and we're glad progress won't be delayed to appease critics.