Common Core should move forward
Thousands of high school seniors throughout Pennsylvania are about to have the common experience of receiving a high school diploma. That doesn't mean, however, that their diplomas have common value.
Many graduates, including some in our area, won't be proficient in math or science, or both. When those graduates attending colleges report to their campuses in August or September, more than a third of them will have to take remedial courses in one or more subjects in order to achieve the level of proficiency they'll need for college-level courses.
Despite the vast disparities in quality of public education and the unnecessary remedial costs for graduates to achieve mere proficiency, the Pennsylvania Board of Education's decision to adopt "Common Core" standards has become politically controversial.
The Senate Education Committee will conduct hearings on Common Core this week even though some standards have been in place for more than three years. And many of the standards from which the Common Core is derived have been in place since the late 1990s.
Simply put, the Common Core defines what Pennsylvania students are supposed to know at specific grade levels, whether they are in Philadelphia, Towanda, Erie or somewhere else in the commonwealth.
Common standards for academic rigor have drawn critics from both ends of the political spectrum. On the left, some Democrats have complained that the standards will increase school compliance costs and dropout rates. On the right, some Republicans claim that the standards are creeping nationalization of education.
The standards, however, are coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices in cooperation with the Council of Chief State School Officers. It is not a project of he federal government, even though some have derided it as "Obamacore" because President Obama has supported common standards.
States are free to adopt all, none or some of the core model. The Pennsylvania version includes about 85 percent of the national model.
The Common Core defines minimum standards. No district will be precluded from exceeding them, and curriculum still will be determined at the school district level.
Lawmakers should allow Common Core to proceed to give students and taxpayers guaranteed value for high school diplomas.