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ALEC To Formally Oppose Common Education Standards, Leaving Struggling Students Behind

Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, an education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is planning to formally oppose the Common Core Standards, which set benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do in reading and math at each grade level. Though ALEC misleadingly describes the Common Core as a “federal intrusion” into state education, these standards were actually created and voluntarily adopted by a consortium of states to improve our failing and fragmented education system. By opposing the Common Core, ALEC is choosing to promote local control at the expense of preparing students to be college- and career-ready.

Understanding the importance of the Common Core requires acknowledging the problems with our current education system — an area where ALEC has turned a blind eye. In 2011, only 35% of eighth grade students scored at the “proficient” level or above in math, and only a third of eighth grade students scored at the “proficient” level or above in reading on the nation’s reading and math report card.

These low achievement levels are not always obvious because states like South Carolina currently set their own standards and assessments. This results in a patchwork education system where students could perform well on their state test but not on the nation’s reading and math assessment.

Source: New America Foundation

Now more than ever, we need a shared set of high standards so that students will be prepared for college and the workforce. States recognize the severity of the problem and almost all have now voluntarily adopted the Common Core, with some encouragement from the Obama administration and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Some states like Massachusetts even incorporated additional state standards when it adopted the Common Core in order to increase academic rigor.

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However, progress is still shaky. Even though the initiative is backed with bipartisan support, several Republican governors are now trying to roll back their states’ commitments.

Improving student achievement requires debate over truly complex and challenging issues — but deciding whether to have a shared framework for student skills is not one of them. While groups like ALEC might claim that they “promote excellence in nation’s education system,” their opposition to the Common Core reveals that their real agenda is simply to push for local control above all else. Click here to see a list of companies that have recently stopped supporting ALEC.