In 2010, when I was state superintendent of education, then-Gov. Mark Sanford and I joined with the governors, chief state school officers and state boards of education of 45 states to sign on to a nationwide effort to improve the rigor of what we expect of students in mathematics and language. The confusing and irrational differences among states in their expectations was limiting our students’ ability to succeed and our nation’s ability to compete.
Our population is increasingly mobile, and our economic competition is permanently global. Different standards, for example, that when a family moved with a third grader from a low-expectation state to a high-expectation state, they suddenly no longer had a third grader doing well, but a child in danger of failing.
Our standards never had been adequately benchmarked to allow real apple-to-apple comparisons. That meant we could not compare our students to students in the rest of the world or accurately assess our strengths and weaknesses to bring about the improvements necessary to win economically.
In short, governors and chief state school officers (not the federal government) started the Common Core initiative because they saw the need for higher and more consistent standards across our states and for better information about how our students are performing compared to students in other nations. Like any new, comprehensive initiative, it will need to be continually evaluated and strengthened; but there is no reason to doubt that this state-led, bipartisan effort makes sense – for our children and for our nation.
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The writer is former S.C. state superintendent of education. He lives in Winnsboro