Common Core: Better Standards, Conditions, Tools, & Outcomes

Common Core: Better Standards, Conditions, Tools, & Outcomes
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Over the past week, three states have passed bills to pull their states out of Common Core State Standards--the shared learning expectations for K-12 students adopted by 45 states. Bills are now sitting on the Governor's desk in Oklahoma, Missouri, and South Carolina.

Leaving the Common Core would be like a group of phone users leaving iOS or Android and going back to Blackberry--few apps, few updates, and few friends. The politically motivated change would lead to weaker expectations, less teacher collaboration, and higher costs.

On the other hand, it's exciting to see more than 40 states working together on voluntarily common college and career ready expectations for students-it makes states more competitive, is embraced by teachers, and is unleashing an avalanche of innovation.

Better Goals. Common Core State Standards give all students a shot at college and family wage jobs. They are a big improvement over the hodgepodge of expectations developed state by state. The theme of "fewer, deeper, clearer" expectations really strikes a chord with teachers. The new standards stress applying knowledge and critical thinking rather than simple rote memorization.

With mobile families and a mobile workforce, it doesn't make sense to have different expectations for reading, writing, and math state to state. Common Core State Standards are well written standards for reading with comprehension, writing with precision, and solving complex problems. It's not a curriculum or a testing program. States that have adopted the Core set their own graduation requirements, define expectations in other subjects, and pick their own test. School districts continue to make curriculum decisions.

Collaboration. Teaching has been an isolating profession with individual teachers laboring with little support and few professional connections. Online learning communities and common standards have changed that for hundreds of thousands of teachers in the last three years. For the first time educators (and parents) can share tools, resources, and strategies across state lines.

Platform for innovation. The iPhone quickly became a platform for innovation--there are over 1 million apps for iPhone and over 100,000 #EdApps. Common Core has had the same effect in education--it has unleashed more than $1 billion of private investment by foundations and venture funds supporting the development of apps, platforms, tools and templates that can be shared nationwide. A great example of shared resources are the open writing prompts from the nonprofit Literacy Design Collaborative--the result is more and better writing to common standards across the high school curriculum.

Better outcomes. The folks whipping up the Core backlash are aiming for political points not academic gains. They don't speak for most folks on the right--see Conservatives For Higher Standards.

The digital learning revolution is expanding student options and extending the reach of great teachers. Higher common standards and more collaboration are leading to better teaching. The combination of common standards and digital learning is a recipe for improvement and innovation.

Tom Vander Ark is CEO of Getting Smart and a partner at Learn Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in educational technology.

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