By guest blogger Danielle Wilson
The Common Core State Standards continue to spark both vocal opposition and support. A group of former Republican governors from states that adopted the standards voiced their support for common core in a panel discussion held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. Most states have adopted the more rigorous standards for kindergarten through high school.
“Confronting the Myths: The Truth about Common Core,” was a roundtable discussion focused on the impact the Common Core State Standards have on the nation’s ability to compete in a global economy. The five former Republican governors featured in the panel are strong supporters of the standards and helped implement them in their states.
All panel participants agreed that the focus of discussions about the standards should be about their content and the impact they have on student achievement.
Former Michigan Gov. John Engler introduced the panel discussion by showing an 8th grade math problem from the international TIMMS test along with the percentage of students who answered it correctly. Only 29 percent of U.S. 8th graders were able to answer the question correctly.
“There isn’t a liberal or conservative answer to these problems— just a correct answer and a wrong one,” he said of issues with academic achievement.
Even though the United States is spending significantly more on education than other countries, the achievement level of students keep “falling at the bottom of the list,” Engler said. The common- core standards, he said, provide a uniform method of raising education standards with “fewer but better assessments.”
Panelists described how they came to the conclusion that their states were in need of new standards, and explained their process for adopting them.
Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said her state had a large percentage of high school students who were not proficient in basic subjects, and that 50 percent of the state’s students needed some form of college remediation. Employers were also having to retrain high school graduates in math and reading. “While graduation rates are important, what’s the value of that degree in the workplace?” asked Lingle.
Former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas said his state had “lots of educator involvement” in choosing to adopt the standards. “I think the process was sound and involved all the right people,” he said.
Douglas said those in support of common core have to dispel the myths and publicize how the standards will help U.S. children become more competitive on a global scale.
Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said the adoption of common core was a “bottom up” effort. Georgia’s state board of education accepted the standards after “an inclusive tour throughout the state,” he said.
The former governors agreed that they had not expected the current backlash against common core. They said their decision to implement the standards in their states was not a result of federal influence.
“I’m frankly puzzled by the myths, claims and accusations that have come since” Georgia adopted the standards in 2010, Perdue said.
Former Maine Gov. John McKernan said that those most vocal in opposing common core are not necessarily the most knowledgeable. “The public is for common core,” said McKernan. He agreed that much of the negativity surrounding the standards is political. McKernan said some states may struggle with the implementation of the standards in classrooms, but those issues could be dealt with on a state level, he said.
The role digital devices will play in the adoption of common core was briefly mentioned. Lingle said that during the pilot of common core in eight of Hawaii’s lowest performing schools, students used digital devices to complete lessons based on the new standards. As common core evolves, Engler added, the development of digital tools that align with the needs of students and teachers will continue.