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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
Commentary

Common Core standards can work for the U.S.


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Reflective of 50 states, America's education system has been supporting 50 standards for learning, resulting in wide disparities in student proficiency across the country. This inconsistency may be one of the reasons the U.S. has fallen behind the international learning curve. As our economies globalize and the job market becomes increasingly competitive, education reform on a national scale has never been more important.

The first step toward nationwide education reform in the U.S. is already underway. A collaboration of parents, lawmakers and education professionals, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) provide an educational foundation designed to unite students under a common system of learning with clear expectations for student education and achievement as they progress from one level to the next.

What makes this type of learning method so effective? To begin with, it starts with greater focus on "core" subjects, such as reading and mathematics, and allows educators more time to delve deeper into each new piece of material, like peeling away the layers of an onion.

Additionally, the CCSS are internationally benchmarked, taking into account the education standards of other nations when creating this new learning path for its students. This is important because it attempts to dissolve educational barriers and recognize the significance of global education. The CCSS is more than a new set of standards; it's a movement toward a better future, where meaningful and comprehensive comparisons will exist between student performance and achievement across the U.S. and even the world.

Like every education reform, it has its critics, but the overwhelming support of 46 states cannot be ignored.

At Cambridge International Examinations, our support for Common Core is grounded in our own approach to curriculum development. Our curriculum, similar to the CCSS, has been offered by schools for many years - and our students and teachers have witnessed impressive results.

We've seen our learners succeed with these techniques, allowing them to better prepare for college and careers. Cambridge programs in the States include coursework, teacher training, assessments and educational support for more than 210 U.S. schools. We have mapped our high school level courses in English and math to the new standards and will soon apply the same process to our science courses. These adapted Cambridge exams are being piloted by schools in Arizona, Connecticut and Mississippi as part of a U.S. education program called "Excellence for All."

Another important emphasis of the CCSS is the development of learners' critical thinking, communication and analysis skills. We work with students who participate in a unique skills-based curriculum called Cambridge Global Perspectives, which is being used by U.S. high schools. The "Critical Path," which is a crucial part of this course, is unique because it provides a clearly defined way of teaching and measuring these thinking skills.

We consistently hear from teachers and students who experience our programs, and according to a recent Cambridge study, more than 90 percent of our educators who teach in the Global Perspectives curriculum feel confident that it meets the depth and rigor required for college-level study. Our students are satisfied as well - nearly 80 percent of them believe that these courses have helped them develop into well-informed, independent-minded individuals capable of applying their skills to the modern world.

Cambridge is committed to continuing to support great initiatives such as the CCSS, which have been designed to elevate the U.S. learning system on a global level, clarifying education expectations and supporting the common goal of high-quality education for every student. The CCSS is the first of many steps toward raising academic standards.

As education leaders of today, it is our responsibility to support a brighter future for students around the world. There's no better way to accomplish this than to challenge our children and give them the best learning foundation possible to support their success.

Michael O'Sullivan is chief executive of Cambridge International Examinations.

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