Gov. Greg Abbott has stated he “wants next year’s pre-kindergarten class to graduate from high school in the top-ranked school system in the nation.” This is a great goal, like many of his other goals, but how do we achieve this? Currently, Texas ranks 39th in the nation in education and receives an overall grade of C-, according to Education Week’s State Report. For the SAT, which many of us have taken, Texas ranks 47th in the nation and would likely rank dead last if all (instead of the 62 percent currently) Texas high school students were required to take the SAT.
The problem is real. Texas students are struggling to keep up with the rest of the nation. The United States is having similar problems on a global scale, with our country falling behind other developed nations in recent decades. As a result, state education chiefs and governors in 48 states came together to develop the Common Core, a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in the English language, arts, literacy and mathematics. It was a bipartisan effort in creating, adopting and implementing standards, which are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit-bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce.
Forty-three states have adopted Common Core, and the results have been successful. The top nine states in education, according to Education Week, have all adopted Common Core. In addition, the top 11 states with regard to SAT scores have adopted Common Core (No. 5 Minnesota only adopted the English Language Arts standards).
Opponents of Common Core cannot argue against the facts of the program; thus, they have fallen back on catchphrases and rhetoric, such as, “We do not need a one-size-fits-all solution,” or by comparing it to the controversial Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Opposition to Common Core comes from the far right of the Republican Party, which I personally believe opposes Common Core because of President Barack Obama’s support of it. On the other hand, the majority of Republican governors support Common Core because they participated in its creation and have seen the positive results from its implementation.
Studies have shown that Common Core standards are a lot better than 85 to 90 percent of the states standards that they replace. We need more rigorous standards to better prepare this country’s students for higher education and for the workforce, which is why organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have supported Common Core.
Additionally, Texas simply cannot become the best state for primary education with the low standards that we have now.
I understand that politically, it is perilous for Republicans, especially in a state like Texas, to support Common Core. I believe Abbott, who opposes Common Core, does so because he is worried about a primary challenge from the right in 2018. Specifically, he is worried about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. However, there is a way around this. What Texas needs to do is adopt standards superior to Common Core. Don’t let Common Core be the ceiling, but simply the floor for educational standards. For example, Minnesota is the highest-ranked state, which has not adopted Common Core completely. Part of the reason is that Minnesota has developed standards that are, in fact, superior to Common Core in math!
It is without a doubt that Texas needs better education standards. We are ranked toward the bottom in almost every metric, yet — due to our low academic standards — we have the second-highest high school graduation rate in the nation. This indicates that we are graduating too many high school seniors who are not ready for higher education or the workforce. I agree with Abbott that Texas should be number one in education, but to achieve that, we need to adopt Common Core or standards superior to it.
Hung is a first-year law student from Brownsville.