It seems the Common Core State Standards detractors follow Lenin's maxim that, "A lie told often enough becomes the truth." Their most recent foray into trying to take down the effort spearheaded by the nation's governors and chief state school officers to outline what all students should know and be able to do in reading and math leaves us with no choice but to roll up our sleeves and yet again set the record straight.
Sandra Stotsky, holding herself out as a mathematics expert, has been traveling from state to state alleging that the Common Core math standards hold students back from pursuing advanced post-secondary studies in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields. She made this point to Wisconsin legislators in October last year. Stotsky, a former high school French and German teacher, goes so far as to question how leaders of major STEM companies could support the standards. Well, she should just ask.
As a former engineering professor, the former chairman and chief executive of Intel and current CEO of one of the highest-performing charter school systems in the country (BASIS Schools) I can speak directly to why businesses, and, indeed, higher education, benefits from the Common Core, and why concerns about the math standards' rigor are misplaced.
First, the Common Core State Standards are more rigorous than most states' old standards — and the notion that they restrict or limit student learning is a willful misread of them. In fact, the standards ensure that all students master the math skills needed for success — to progress systematically from one concept to the next, to develop the tenacity to solve problems and to understand the logic of math. What is key, and revolutionary, is that the standards will prepare more students to take advanced math coursework by giving all students a better foundation and understanding of mathematics. Students who have mastered the Common Core will be ready to take higher-level math coursework in high school and college, enabling them to pursue the career of their choice, including STEM fields.
Sadly, we don't need more statistics to tell us why our students need higher math standards. U.S. students rank 26th against their international counterparts on mathematics assessments. More than 30% of students enrolled in college require remedial math courses — and that costs students, parents, states and our economy in missed opportunities, hard-earned cash, state tax dollars and wasted resources. Meanwhile, the number of jobs requiring STEM will increase by 26% in the next six years according to the Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce. We are unprepared to meet that demand and I, like many business leaders, believe implementing the Common Core is part of the solution.
We are not alone. A study from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a respected international comparison of student achievement conducted every three years by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), concluded that successful implementation of the Common Core would yield significant performance gains for U.S. students.
Those of us in the STEM industry know firsthand how the success of our nation's industries and economy depends on the quality of our schools' math and science education. Those of us in the K-12 education field know that higher expectations and higher standards are key to improving the performance of our students. We also know what STEM skills are needed in today's fastest growing, most innovative industries. So it's no surprise that business leaders and their associations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable strongly support the Common Core.
We all want our students to be excited about learning, to be challenged and to succeed. And we want our country to be able to compete in a complex world that requires more STEM knowledge and understanding than ever before. I'm encouraged at the prospect of the Common Core improving opportunities for more young people. And I continue to be puzzled as to why the detractors think the status quo is good enough. Not for my grandkids, and not for yours. Full speed ahead with implementation of the Common Core.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Craig Barrett, the former chairman and CEO of Intel, is CEO of BASIS Charter Schools and Chairman of Achieve and Change the Equation.