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John Florez: Let's make education's Common Core Standards work

Published: Saturday, May 26 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Hillcrest High School teacher Ken Herlin teaches Math class Dec 21, 2005 which is part of the International Baccalaureate program offered at high schools all over the world. A handful of schools throughout Utah participate in or are applying to participate. Program is rigorous. Students must take six courses and pass difficult exams, based international education standards.

Jeffrey D. Allred,

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"The sky is falling!" Chicken Little warned everyone as an acorn fell on its head. That seems to be the case whenever a national solution is offered to solve national problems, such as education.

Governors through the National Governors Association, or NGA, have made a concerted effort to renew America's ability to maintain a competitive edge in today's global economy. After years of study, they developed a set of common core standards for education that states could voluntarily adopt. When they were brought up for comment in 2009, the Chicken Littles came out with the usual cry, "The feds are taking over." It was the same cry when HUD introduced programs to help local communities deal with blight, "The bulldozers are coming to tear down our houses." That didn't happen.

While America is fighting to maintain its competitive economic position in today's global economy there are those who would rather cling to old ideologies and let other nations pass us by. They see government as the enemy yet cannot name their locally elected school board member. They should take a lesson from a Davis High School AP student who contacted his local school board member to say he was concerned the common core standards would hold students back in their math studies. Wanting to be sure the accelerated math track could continue under the Common Core, he found the answer in that local school districts have the flexibility to build on those standards to better meet student needs.

Then there are those who want to study the Common Core Standards further while other countries have made national strides in moving forward. It's that sense of resignation Thomas Friedman referred to in his speech at the NGA meeting in Salt Lake City. People have gotten used to, "This is just the way things go and we don't expect anything different." On a recent trip to China, he noted that the Chinese had built a convention center in eight months, whereas when he returned to Bethesda, Md., he noted that it had taken over six months for Americans to repair a subway escalator. What he found disturbing was a news item about the long waiting lines at the subway station and that people had "sort of gotten used to it."

The Chicken Littles keep turning inward at a time when the world is flat, interconnected and where anyone can have a job anywhere if they have the knowledge, imagination and creativity. America needs to have a common core of educational standards that are world class if our students are to make it in the new world yet to be discovered.

The core standards the state has adopted are a work in progress. They are voluntary and not created by the federal government, but by governors responsible for meeting the needs of their states. They realize the need to create a national education strategy if America is to succeed. The Common Core Standards ought to be viewed as a way for all of us to work together to prepare our students and nation to succeed.

America was created to be one nation working to promote the general welfare for all. In tough times, Americans have always pulled together in moving our country forward, especially in time of crisis. Rather than criticizing the Common Core Standards and waiting for them to fail, let us work together to build upon them so they meet our state's needs.

The sky is not falling. The world waits. Will our children be ready? We must not fail them.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at jdflorez@comcast.net.

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