School is more than learning your ABCs and how to solve equations. We know that learning how to think critically, work cooperatively and solve problems creatively are among the most important skills children need to be productive in a competitive global economy.
Oklahoma's PASS standards are tougher than those in many other states, yet we are still falling short. Too many of our children leave school unprepared for college or career.
In 2010, Oklahoma was among 45 states that chose to adopt the Common Core State Standards for education. These new, higher standards are the result of a state-led initiative by governors, state superintendents and teachers — many from Oklahoma. They will prepare all students for life beyond our doors, whether that's college, career training or the workplace.
Adoption of these standards means every student in our state will be held to consistent, meaningful standards, regardless of where they live or their family background. This common-sense approach has broad, bipartisan support, not only in Oklahoma, but nationally. Teachers, parents, business leaders, policymakers and higher education leaders all agree that Common Core could be a game-changer for our students and schools.
The Common Core standards are tough. They were developed through extensive research by educators in our state working with experts and teachers from across the country. Common Core will push our students to read at higher levels earlier in their school careers. It will also require that 70 percent of all texts read in 12th grade be nonfiction.
I especially like the fact that successful implementation of Common Core will move students beyond the memorization and regurgitation of facts and figures. They will be challenged to develop a deeper understanding of subject matter.
Currently, there is too much testing. We do need to take a more common-sense approach to assessment. That said, there is no reason to back away from these higher standards. Educators and district leaders across Oklahoma are working to develop materials and lesson plans that will bring our new standards to life.
Common Core is not a “national curriculum.” We continue to make local decisions on curriculum and appropriate teaching methods, just as we always have. We have the flexibility to add standards on top of the Common Core framework to meet our needs. There is no loss of local control.
Common Core complements our district's groundbreaking work in teacher and leader effectiveness. Tulsa Public Schools recently developed a teacher evaluation system that has been adopted by 500 school districts across Oklahoma. We are committed to having effective teachers and leaders in every school. Common Core provides us with a valuable tool to provide consistency and a measure of accountability for performance.
Now more than ever, the global economy demands innovative thinking and high expectations. Students need to have strong math and literacy skills in order to compete. Common Core will help to equip every child with the skills and knowledge necessary to lead Oklahoma into the 21st century.
Ballard is superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools.