'Common Core' fears seem overblown

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 10 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:52 am in
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Gazette Editorial Board

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In 2008, Iowa became the nation’s last state to adopt statewide education standards for students in grades K-12. The “Iowa Core” was approved by legislators in response to growing concerns about inconsistent academic expectations in local districts and Iowa’s decline in national education rankings.

In 2010, the state Department of Education blended the Iowa Core with the new Common Core State Standards — developed by a consortium of states as an initiative of the National Governor’s Association to formalize what students should know in English and math by the end of each grade.

All Iowa school districts are required to implement the Iowa Core by the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Last month, some Republican legislators circulated a letter calling for elimination of that requirement, as well as pulling Iowa out of a consortium of states that is developing testing related to Common Core standards. They fear that local control will be destroyed and federal officials will meddle in Iowa classrooms.

While we respect the desire to protect local control authority, we think these legislators’ fears are overblown.

First of all, the Common Core gives students, parents and teachers a benchmark of what knowledge should be learned but it does not dictate how to teach or what curriculum to use. That’s how the Iowa Core is to work, too.

The Iowa Core is similar to the Common Core, with higher standards in some areas. The Iowa Core also includes requirements to teach such skills as finance and technology literacy.

There are no federal funds tied to the Common Core, so no money is at stake for Iowa.

The Common Core and Iowa Core are aimed at ensuring students succeed in post-high school education and are better able to compete in the global economy and workplace — a worthy goal in a changing world.

Iowa legislators would do well to monitor the Iowa Core rollout and not intervene unless student achievement lags or bureaucrats act as dictators to local districts.

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