“The United States is a country built by exceptional achievements and a drive to always set the bar higher. However, in recent years, our national education system has not met those standards,” Beebe said in his weekly radio address.
“.. .America now ranks 20th in reading, 23rd in science and 30th in math. We are not falling back as much as we are standing still, with more and more countries racing ahead of us. In a modern world with a technologically advanced economy, these results are unacceptable,” he said.
Beebe, a supporter of Common Core – a set of common standards in math and in English language arts that had been adapted by 45 states and the District of Columbia at one time – said the standards do not take away local control as has been suggested by critics of the movement.
“Common Core elevates the standards for knowledge students should have learned as they progress through their education,” said Beebe. “What it does not do is tell teachers and school districts how to teach material and develop curricula. That is still done with local control at the local level. Around the country, this has created some mixed results with the initial launch. Some districts are better preparing their administrators and teachers than others, and in some cases, teachers and parents have become frustrated as a result.”
Arkansas implemented the Common Core in grades 3-8 for the first time last school year.
“While only time will tell how effectively these new standards can be implemented, the rollout is being hindered by intentionally spreading fear and misinformation about Common Core. Some claim that it is a federal mandate being imposed upon states and schools, an attempt by the federal government to dictate what and how our children learn. This is the exact opposite of the truth. Common Core was developed outside of federal oversight. It was an initiative brought by state leaders nationwide who wanted to reinvigorate our education system for a return to international prominence.
Beebe added that business leaders are supportive of Common Core as they see the connection between the education standards and challenges in the economy.
“We’ve seen a recent swell in efforts to bring jobs back to America from overseas, both for financial and patriotic reasons. But with other countries turning out better-educated graduates, we see another hurdle interfering with those efforts,” Beebe said. “That’s why the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and business groups throughout the 40+ states implementing Common Core are rallying support from employers. They know that we need stronger standards to maintain American education and continue producing graduates who can keep our workforce competitive and innovative.”
Late last year, state education officials pinned a drop in benchmark exams in fifth and seventh grade test scores on adaptations in anticipation of Common Core standards.
Arkansas is part of a consortium of states known as PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, that is pilot-testing Common Core-based student assessments.