Blackmon: Common Core addresses the challenge to change

September 26, 2013 


— The Class of 2014 cars is out, with features designed to improve the driving experience. Why do we need new models? The answer resides in a multitude of factors not limited to improvements in safety, fuel economy and overall performance.

If you think of schools as vehicles that transport students from childhood to adulthood, then the Common Core State Standards are like the new model year: They represent an improvement in teaching practices.

High school graduation should serve as a benchmark for entering a career or college. College admissions officers and employment recruiters are constantly increasing entry requirements as a consequence of challenging work environments. We need to keep designing new models of teaching to improve the product, in much the same way we need greater safety features and improved performance in cars.

If you’re not convinced that we need higher standards, watch Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” scenes, which demonstrate how many adults fail to demonstrate either knowledge or understanding of basic facts and important issues. Or consider “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” It demonstrates that too many adults aren’t.

A 2012 Xavier University study found that one in three native-born citizens failed the civics portion of the naturalization test. Meanwhile, 97.5 percent of immigrants seeking citizenship passed the test, answering at least six of the 10 questions correctly. “If the pass rate were 7 of 10, one half of all native-born citizens would fail,” according to Michael Ford.

The Common Core State Standards will not cure all of the ills in education. However, continuing with the current standards will be a disservice to students. The 2010 adoption of the new standards took place after a deliberative process without a rush to judgment. To see a 130-page comparative review, go to and type “CCSSReportFinal0604” into the search box.

Educator and author E.D. Hirsch, in The Making of Americans, notes that “Our educational thinkers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw schools as the central and main hope for the preservation of democratic ideals.” They believed that “the school would be the institution that would transform future citizens into loyal Americans. It would teach common knowledge, virtues, ideals, language, and commitments.”

Challenges continue. Opportunities abound. Teachers are preparing to address the future. Previous models have been less than sufficient in preparing students for an ever-changing work environment. Standards must be elevated. If not now, when?

David W. Blackmon, Ph.D.

Chairman, State Board of Education


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