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Student Success Requires Action, Not Delay

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Something remarkable is happening in states across the country. From coast to coast, in states both red and blue, wide adoption of the academic goals for math and English embodied in the Common Core State Standards is leading to an intense focus on ensuring that all students are successful after high school.

Recently, AFT union president Randi Weingarten diminished this vital work under way in states implementing the Common Core. Despite her unfounded assertions, the important work of standards implementation is progressing meaningfully in states as diverse as Louisiana and New York. We stand with educators and leaders in school houses and state houses nationwide who are dedicated to improving lives.

As an organization that represents state education leaders, we understand the urgent need to help students reach the rigorous academic goals the Common Core State Standards represent and ensure that teachers have the support they need to be successful. This requires big changes and we have much to learn along the way. However, this effort is a far cry from the haphazard picture being asserted by Ms. Weingarten. In fact, states have been working for over three years to create meaningful opportunities for educators and students to learn and succeed with their new standards.

It's important to be clear that teachers get the importance of the standards, and they are on board with the effort. Their awareness and support for the standards is evident in opinion polls: more than 75 percent of teachers support the adoption of the Common Core. A survey by MetLife found that 7 out of 10 teachers are confident the Common Core will better prepare students for college and the workforce. Clearly classroom teachers think the standards are a good thing for kids.

State by state, the support is similarly strong. Teachers are enthusiastic about the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in their classroom - from New York (67 percent) to Louisiana (74 percent) to California (79 percent). Most importantly, these teachers believe the standards will have a positive impact on students' ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.

Work underway

The Common Core is already showing signs of student success. Kentucky became the first state to start using the Common Core State Standards in 2010. Prior to that, only 34 percent of the students who graduated from Kentucky high schools were ready to go on to college or start a career. After just a single year of using the Common Core, that number jumped up to 47 percent. A year later it hit 54 percent. Those aren't just statistics. Those are real students - students who no longer have to pay college tuition for remedial classes when they enroll.

Leaders in Tennessee have provided intensive training for more than 40,000 educators in the Common Core. These trainings were responsive in real-time to teacher feedback by receiving a steady stream of input during the conference to be sure that adjustments could be made. Here again, we are already seeing student performance rise --- on the latest nation's report card (the National Assessment for Educational Progress, NAEP) Tennessee students made huge gains in all four areas assessed.

Hawaii, who saw the second highest growth in the nation in math and high growth in reading on the recent NAEP results has been providing a variety of supports to educators since the state adopted the Common Core in 2010. The state's five phase professional development plan has provided in-person and virtual training opportunities for educators across the islands and in 2013, the state trained all of their principals who in turn administered job-embedded professional development to all teachers.

We know that trainings are not enough - -it is also critical to provide teachers with actionable feedback that they can use. States like Massachusetts and Tennessee have thoughtfully worked with educators to put in place new evaluation systems that provide tailored supports to help teachers with their work. Advancing this work benefits teachers as well as our future graduates.

State leaders worked with teachers and other experts to develop these new higher standards and they are developing new assessments in order to give parents and teachers clear information on how their students are doing. We know well the consequences of not preparing our students for success after graduation. It is inexcusable for us to delay this work because doing so denies our students the right to an education that prepares them for success in college and careers.

At all levels we must remain focused on what it takes to prepare student for success. State education leaders are energized, committed and joined by thousands of talented educators who understand that our students cannot afford to wait.