Common Ground on Common Core

For all the political squabbling about the new Common Core state standards, a new poll released last Friday shows that most teachers are excited about putting them into practice—and that the work is already well underway across much of the country.

The poll of 20,000 teachers, from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that 73 percent of teachers were “enthusiastic” about implementation of the Common Core, and 77 percent believe the standards will have a positive impact on students’ critical thinking and reasoning abilities. This bolsters previous polls of teachers conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, both of which found similar levels of support. (The results were released in advance of the third Primary Sources report, which will be published early next year.)

You hear a lot about the opposition to Common Core. That’s partly because the media thrives on conflict and partly because it has been eagerly fueled by critics like Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin on the right and Diane Ravitch on the left, whose opinions can shift the center of gravity on such issues.

But let’s pause for a moment to take stock, because it’s easy to lose perspective in all the noise. Now lining up behind Common Core you have teachers unions, business leaders, mainstream Republicans and Democrats, major education reform groups, the National PTA, school principals, and—as the surveys make clear—America’s teachers, among many others. Particularly in an era of hyper-partisan politics, this kind of unity is remarkable. It’s a testament to the quality of the standards themselves and the process by which they were developed.

That’s not to say we should brush aside concerns about the Common Core; only that we should worry about the right things. There is broad consensus that embracing the standards is the right thing to do. What we ought to be focused on, then, is putting them into practice as well as possible. After all, that’s what teachers are worried about, and where the real work lies; according to the Scholastic survey, 74 percent of teachers in Common Core states say implementation will require them to make changes in their teaching practice, and 73 percent say they believe implementation will be challenging.

Common Core gives us an opportunity to ensure that kids across the country leave high school prepared to succeed in college or the workforce. But doing that means making sure school leaders are prepared to coach their staff to lead rigorous classes, that districts are providing the right supports for this work and that new teachers start their careers ready for the challenge. It’s a tall order. Let’s stop arguing and get to work.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

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Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

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