The 2014 session of the Alabama Legislature is underway, and while a number of important issues are being debated and discussed, perhaps no issue has garnered more attention or been the source of more misinformation than Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards.
These standards, which were put into place by the State Board of Education in November of 2010, affirmed new, tougher benchmarks of proficiency in mathematics and English language arts to better prepare Alabama students for success after graduation.
The standards require more critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork instead of rote memorization. They were developed by Alabamians for Alabamians using a comprehensive and transparent process dictated by state law and long-standing tradition.
Just like any smart business plan, the standards provide states with a roadmap for student learning. By adopting standards with clear, detailed expectations of proficiency for what students should be able to master at each grade level, when a student in Alabama successfully completes each grade, it is clear what skills that student has mastered.
For far too long, we have been deluding ourselves that students who receive good grades and graduate from high school are on track to succeed in college or the workforce. U.S. employers have seen a growing gap between the skills they need in their employees and skills recent high school and college graduates have developed. In fact, 34.4 percent of 2010 Alabama high school graduates had to take at least one remedial course to improve their English or math skills, according to a Birmingham News analysis of data from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
In a state like Alabama that has such a concentrated military presence – from Huntsville to Anniston, Montgomery and Dothan – it is important for families who move here that their children can read and do math on the same level at the equivalent grade level in any other state.
In the very same way, companies that are looking to locate, stay or expand to Alabama must know that we can produce an educated workforce. Alabama’s College and Career Ready standards are vital in preparing students to compete in the 21st Century global workforce. With corporate citizens like Austal, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama and Airbus to name a few, it is easy to see we are no longer competing for a workforce with our sister states but instead we are competing internationally.
Since the State Board of Education adopted the College and Career Ready Standards, the criticism has continued from those opposed to the standards. For months, the board has addressed every complaint lodged by opponents of Alabama’s standards, including increasing the protection of student personal data and rescinding the Memorandum of Understanding between Alabama and the National Governors’ Association. Despite these efforts, among others since our standards were adopted in 2010, the opposition continues to move the goal posts.
Let’s be clear about one thing: in no instance has the federal government taken over, or attempted to take over, Alabama’s education system, nor will our elected officials on the State Board of Education allow that to happen. That accusation is based in fear, not reality. We have real battles with the federal government when it comes to their overreach in Alabama, and Common Core is not one of these battles.
Any attempt by the legislature to assume control of this issue, relegated by law to the State Board of Education, is the very definition of a government overreach.
We remain united with Alabama’s business, education and military communities as we work to offer our children a brighter future, regardless of the zip code in which they live. We welcome all those who strive for a better Alabama to stand with us.
William J. Canary is the president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.
This article was published by al.com on January 30, 2014.