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Educational leaders speak out on Common Core

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Editor’s note: The following editorial was submitted by John Morgan, Tennessee Board of Regents chancellor; Joe DiPietro, University of Tennessee president; Richard G. Rhoda, Tennessee Higher Education Commission executive director; and Dr. Karen  Bowyer, Dyersburg State Community College president. 

A widening gap has grown between what students are learning in K-12 schools and what they’re expected to know by the employers who hire them and the colleges and universities where they choose to enroll. For too long Tennessee’s education systems have operated independently, lacking coordination to ensure the needs of our students, our employers and our communities are aligned.

Unfortunately, it’s not just in Tennessee. The numbers bear the results. U.S. students’ math skills rank 25th in the world, and their reading skills fell to 14th. While we cheer for medals awarded in Olympic competitions, the U.S. is falling behind in education compared to the rest of the world. That’s not a standard we should accept.

In Tennessee this year, more than 60 percent of high school graduates who enrolled in a Tennessee public college or university required some type of remedial or academic support. Preparing high schools graduates for college-level work requires additional funding and resources, money students shouldn’t have to pay and an investment taxpayers shouldn’t have to make.

And time spent in remedial classes increases the likelihood that students will not complete their degree. Some $3 billion is spent annually across the U.S. to reteach high school lessons to college students.

But Tennessee is on the right path. Just last November, our state was recognized as the nation’s fastest-improving, with the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

Tennessee’s “Drive to 55” – toward 55 percent of Tennesseans having a post-secondary education credential by 2025 – launched in September. Teachers and school systems across the state and around the country have committed to defining a set of standards that are shared across the states – the Common Core State Standards.

All Tennessee students deserve a quality education. We have long believed the Common Core standards will help students be better prepared for college-level work or to enter the workforce with basic skills when they graduate. Our state’s business leaders agree the common standards will help Tennessee compete on a world scale for economic development with a workforce able to be successful in a global economy.

The Common Core State Standards grew from an initiative started by states’ leaders and education officials to create new standards to prepare students with the education and skill sets to ready them for successful post-secondary studies and good jobs. We agree the standards, developed at the state level with direct input from Tennessee educators, are necessary to meet college-ready and workforce-ready requirements.

How will we know? For the first time, students’ college and career readiness will be measured against how well they align with the knowledge they need for real life, for college and for the workforce. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test was developed by educators across 17 states and the District of Columbia – including our own faculty – to evaluate student progress on Common Core State Standards and keep parents, students and teachers informed about their preparation along the way toward high school graduation. Tennessee educators from both K-12 and higher education have directly contributed to the creation and review of these test items.  

Please join us in supporting the Common Core State Standards and ask your schools, teachers and government leaders to stay the course. Our future depends on it.

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