National standards will benefit our kids

By Otha Thornton

As a resident, native Georgian and president of the National PTA, which represents more than 74 million children, I firmly believe it is critical that Georgia gets the Common Core decision right if we plan on being a state of excellence in the educational arena as the nation moves forward.
Several years ago, the National Governors Association looked at the lackluster performance of American schools compared to other nations. The governors, including former Gov. Sonny Perdue, determined that individual states must adopt higher standards in order to give children a level playing field in today’s fiercely competitive world.
The Common Core State Standards are internationally benchmarked to ensure that our children can compete with any child in the world. The standards raise the bar for Georgia’s children — so we can expect to see some struggles during the process.
One of my favorite quotes attributed to Dr. Benjamin Mays, former president of Morehouse College and superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, is: “The purpose of an education was first to build character, second to serve humanity, and thirdly to earn a living, in that order.”
Throughout my travels to different parts of the world, I have continued to follow my home state’s progress in education. The opposition to the Common Core is not about education; it is based upon flawed assumptions .
When I returned to Georgia after my retirement from the U.S. Army in 2010 and served as Georgia PTA’s Federal Legislative Chair, I saw the bright promise that Common Core was bringing to my home state. Georgia , voluntarily adopted the standards.
States can even go above the standards by 15 percent to cover extra content that they feel is important . States and school districts still have autonomy to teach the standards in the classroom how they see fit. The business community is supportive of the standards, as they firmly believe our children need to be prepared to enter either college or careers.
Despite widespread support, Common Core has become an easy target for a bickering Congress and divided state and local leaders. The American people are tired of the political games that are hurting our children. We want our government leaders to come together to ensure that our children receive a better education than we did.
Empowering parents to be involved in their child’s education is the cornerstone of what we do at PTA. Family engagement is crucial for the success of the Common Core.
Unfortunately, like so many other issues, the Common Core State Standards are surrounded by myths. But what can’t be lost in the debate is the incredible value that the standards provide to parents wanting to be fully engaged in their children’s education. Not implementing the Common Core could represent a huge loss to our education system.
All schools will be better served if standards are aligned. We have seen what states can do when they work together.  When schools are working, our children succeed. That is every parent’s ultimate goal and one that we can realize with the Common Core.

Otha Thornton is president of the National PTA.

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