Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

May 16, 2013

Phil Power: Get to 'core' of the problem

Michigan was one of 45 states which adopted “Common Core Standards” back in 2010. The standards are aimed at setting out the kinds of skills that will qualify kids to successfully meet 21st century challenges, both in post-secondary education and fulfilling careers.

There are a lot of fast-growing myths about these standards. But the fact is that Common Core does not define what specific courses should be taught. Rather, their goal is that after graduating from high school, everyone should be able to:

- Use technology strategically in learning and communicating.

- Use argument and reasoning to do research, construct arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

- Communicate effectively with a variety of audiences.

- Solve problems, construct explanations and design solutions.

All this sounds great to me … and to state leaders ranging from Gov. Rick Snyder to Business Leaders for Michigan CEO Doug Rothwell. Whether you are a believer in education for education’s sake or an advocate for job market-aware learning, the Common Core Standards focus on what capabilities young people need to master for success in the real world.

Everyone needs standards and the ability to measure progress, and In that sense, Common Core represents a valuable accountability test for Michigan schools. We spend around $10 billion each year on our school system. That’s a whale of a lot of money.

So having common standards that most other states also use gives us a benchmark and some way to determine whether we’re getting our money’s worth.

Not surprisingly perhaps, this idea has plenty of critics on both the right and the left. For example, Freedom Works, a right-leaning national outfit, charges the standards are “Largely a product of the 2009 stimulus plan Democrats passed in Congress … a bureaucratic, top-down program heavily influenced by special interests.”

State Rep, Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills), a right-leaner in the Legislature, has introduced a bill that would bar the state from implementing the standards in 2014, as is now called for.

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