The writer is a third-grade teacher in the Omaha area and a member of the America Achieves Fellowship for Teachers and Principals.
The debate continues over whether Nebraska should implement the Common Core state standards in math and literacy.
Recently, Nebraska Board of Education members voted to pay a national education consultant $47,000 of taxpayer money to compare Nebraska education standards to the Common Core in an effort to determine whether Nebraska should continue its solitary stance.
Currently, Nebraska is one of only a handful of U.S. states that have not adopted the Common Core.
A new set of education standards in math and language arts, the Common Core is designed to ensure that all students achieve college and career readiness. They provide a clear, consistent and rigorous set of learning standards and expectations for students across the nation and are quickly becoming the focal point for changing how we think about teaching and learning.
As the rest of the nation ramps up to implement these new education standards, Nebraska continues to place our students and educators at a disadvantage and put our state economy at risk by opting out of the Common Core.
If Nebraska does not adopt the Common Core, our students will be less competitive in college and careers than those in the 45 states that have adopted them. Today, many of Nebraska's high school graduates are entering college with deficiencies, especially in math. Before these students can begin the work on their college majors, many must take courses to remove those deficiencies — costing them time and money.
Nebraska also will not qualify for federal aid available in conjunction with Common Core implementation. And this rejection could even result in the relocation of Nebraska businesses to other states where the work force is better qualified.
Adopting the Common Core in Nebraska is good for our students, good for our educators and good for our economy.
One example of how the Common Core is shifting the focus for students and educators to enhance student achievement is on the elementary level. The Common Core adjusts the typical elementary reading program to include informational-rich text as well as narrative. This aligns more closely with how students will need to process information as adults.
With the Common Core, students are challenged to read more complex text and to think, respond and write about it using evidence from within — just as they will do in college and as we do as adults in our careers.
In my own third-grade classroom, I provide students with daily opportunities to read complex, grade-level-appropriate informational text and then respond to high-level-thinking questions using text-based evidence. This is one of the approaches advocated by the Common Core.
I thus move away from positioning myself as the director and instead serve as a facilitator. Text-based discussions are student-led, allowing the students to expand their understanding and abilities in evidence-based thinking, problem-solving and evaluating varying points of view.
This is something I learned in high school or even beyond. Now, my own students are accomplishing this in a third-grade classroom.
In addition to the student benefits, adoption of the Common Core provides the 20,000-plus Nebraska educators with access to a collaborative and professional community of high-quality educators from across the nation. Free and continual professional development would be at our fingertips and customizable to meet our individual needs.
One of the first tangible tools offered is the interactive America Achieves Common Core website. This website, created by teachers for teachers, includes editable lesson plans, teacher lesson videos, high-quality instructional resources and other guidance from those on the front lines of education.
As a community and as educators, it is our responsibility to continually evaluate current educational practices and determine how to improve student achievement.
This is the mission behind the Common Core. To move our students and schools toward global excellence, Nebraska should adopt the Common Core. This is the first step in guaranteeing all students a high-quality education — and, most importantly, a better future.