Common Core is common sense

Common Core is common sense

It is really easy to be against something. Log into Facebook, post a giant rant about how something bothered you, and gather a few hundred "likes." All of a sudden you are leading a revolution. To truly lead positive change, however, requires that one is willing to move from being against something to standing for what counts.

As the executive director of Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, I am for the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core expects more of our young people in math, reading, writing, speaking and listening. As a community, state, and nation, I firmly believe that our young people can achieve these high standards. Moreover, I believe that these standards are better than our previous standards.

The Common Core is a set of "standards" or expectations for what we want all young people to be able to know and do. Instead of every state expecting something a little (or a lot) different, the Common Core sets the same bar for all. Under these common standards, the expectations for reading in kindergarten or math in eighth grade are the same high standards for kids in Pawtucket and Cumberland, for students in Massachusetts and Mississippi. In a highly mobile and interconnected society, different standards in different states makes little sense at all.

It is also important to know what the Common Core is not. Common Core is not a test. While most states are adopting tests aligned to the Common Core, the standards are decidedly not a test.

Also, the Common Core is not a curriculum. What teachers teach and how they teach it is up to local districts, charters, schools and teachers. It is the job of those of us who support teachers to provide training, materials, and curriculum support to ensure our students meet these new standards.

So why the push for Common Core State Standards here? Aren't we, readers of The Valley Breeze, doing just fine? The truth is, as a whole, the public schools in the United States lag behind other countries. Rhode Island public schools lag behind much of the rest of the country. Too many of the schools in the Blackstone Valley lag behind the rest of our state.

The impact of our educational shortfalls is felt most acutely in our economy. The Rhode Island unemployment rate is tied for worst in the country at 9 percent while neighboring Massachusetts, with its higher performing school system and tougher standards, has a rate of 7 percent.

To be sure, one local executive recently shared with me that because of our state's talent gap, his firm has hundreds of outsourced or unfilled positions that should rightfully be here in Rhode Island. Having low standards will not help our students prepare for meaningful employment.

By aligning our curriculum to the Common Core standards, I believe that schools will improve our future workforce. Perhaps even more importantly, successfully teaching to these standards will help ensure that every child has the skills and knowledge needed to fulfill their maximum potential. Whether it is by expecting more from kindergarteners to twelfth graders, the Common Core will make us better.

To learn more about the Common Core, check out www.commoncore.org.

You can also visit our website www.blackstonevalleyprep.org for more information. Finally, if you are the parent of a rising kindergartener, check our website on Jan. 15 for the launch of Countdown to Common Core Kindergarten. The Countdown is a collaborative project with our partners the Cumberland Office of Children and Youth Learning, the MacColl YMCA, Progreso Latino, and the Central Falls School Department to use technology to help parents better prepare their children for the new kindergarten expectations.

Jeremy Chiappetta

Cumberland

Chiappetta is executive director of the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy