Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Common Core: Model for bipartisanship

While much of the media was mesmerized by the so-called bridge traffic scandal involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, reporters largely missed a superb presentation by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Among other things, Fallin delivered what may be the clearest explanation of Common Core standards for public school students, and why states are embracing them.

The occasion was the National Governors Association's second annual state-of-the-states speech before the National Press Club.

Fallin said simply that  “governors are focused on raising academic standards for all students to ensure their success in college or a career training program.”

She said that is why “governors came together years ago to raise academic standards … to ensure our students could compete in their town, city or state, but with students from around the world.

“Those higher standards are called the Common Core State Standards. They outline what students need to be college- and career-ready.

“However, it is left strictly to individual states, districts and schools to elevate the quality of their students’ education to meet these more rigorous and relevant standards.

“Common Core is not a federal program. It is driven and implemented by those states that choose to participate. It is also not a federal curriculum; in fact, it’s not a curriculum at all. Educators and school districts will still design lesson plans, choose appropriate text books and drive classroom learning.

“The goal is to ensure our children finish high school with better critical thinking skills and the tools they need to succeed in higher education or the workforce.”

That’s pretty clear. Meanwhile, Fallin, a Republican, and Hickenlooper, a Democrat,  highlighted areas where states are taking the lead and the federal government is paralyzed by inaction.

Hickenloopr noted that “the fate of the states and the federal government are inextricably linked. More than 26 percent of most state budgets come from the federal government.”

Fallin said federal inaction has left states “to chart their own path and pursue their own policies where partisan gridlock has left Washington unable to address the nation’s serious problems.

“For governors, inaction is not an option. Where the federal government will not act, states are stepping in. Our message for 2014 is clear: states are leading, and we encourage our federal partners to work more closely with us, and to take note of and use the policy ideas coming from their state partners. Above all, please do not get in the way.”

Fallin and Hickenlooper’s presentation was carried on C-SPAN. It stands as a model of what Democrats and Republicans can do together.

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