Common Core’s English and Math Standards Prepare Students to be Good Citizens

Common Core State Standards fail to prepare students to fulfill their civic responsibilities because they are “silent on the skills and knowledge” students need to do so, argues Arnold Packer, a former assistant secretary for labor, in an opinion piece published by Education Week. “Because citizenship is not explicit in the standards for math and reading—the subjects covered by the Common Core—no one knows how many schools succeed in preparing students.”

Contrary to Packer’s claims, Common Core State Standards were created to ensure that students are held to high academic expectations that fully prepare them with the basic skills and knowledge necessary to succeed after high school. The official website of the Common Core State Standards explains:

“High standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations to ensure that all students have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life upon graduation from high school, regardless of where they live. These standards are aligned to the expectations of colleges, workforce training programs, and employers.”

That sounds a lot like the objectives Packer argues a good education should aim for. Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, agrees that school must prepare students for “civic responsibility and competition in the modern economy.” Last year he wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Common Core State Standards are a necessary step to help all students reach that goal.

“Nearly all Americans agree that to prepare a child for civic responsibility and competition in the modern economy, he or she must be able to read and distill complex sentences, and must be equipped with basic mathematical skills,” Bennett wrote. “That’s the fundamental idea behind [the Common Core]…It is also, by the way, a conservative idea.”

While it will take time for Common Core State Standards to fully take root, initial evidence from states leading the way indicates they are working. In 2014, Karen Nussle wrote in the Washington Times: “What the evidence from states that have embraced the standards continues to underscore, is that the Common Core Standards are working… Common Core State Standards are built on the belief that we as a nation must set higher, clearer goals for students and schools in order to help every student achieve their potential and be ready for success after high school.”

Most would agree with Packer that a quality education should prepare young people for success in life, whatever path they choose. But to suggest Common Core State Standards do not help achieve that goal misses the bigger picture.