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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
Commentary

Standards that give every student a chance to succeed


Published:

If you have ever served in the military, you have heard the joke about how a clear order is given to “secure the building.” The Navy salutes smartly, turns off the lights and locks the doors, the Army yells “Hooah!” and shells it into oblivion with artillery, and the Air Force salutes smartly and secures a long-term lease with options. The humor lies in the absurdity of the different responses to the same clear command and also in the little bit of truth in the joke.

The military strives to establish standards so that one command produces one response — the same result every time. Military families are dismayed when they frequently transfer around the country to discover that their children will enter a new school and be subjected to yet another set of academic standards. This is another unnecessary burden we place on our military families. It doesn’t have to be that way, we could have a common set of academic standards.

I have been a volunteer with the Council for Educational Change to help improve public school support to our military families and have partnered with a Hillsborough County middle school, which is steadily improving its test scores. Stronger academic standards will only help these schools continue to improve and succeed.

Education and hard work are great equalizers. In the economic interest of all Floridians, every child in Florida who graduates high school should have the skills necessary to either go to college or to enter a career through which they can provide for themselves. That is just one reason why I have become such a big supporter of the Florida State Standards.

These standards set a baseline for what all students in kindergarten through high school should learn at each grade level in mathematics and English language arts. They provide a measuring stick to make sure that, no matter where you live, your children receive the education they deserve and parents expect. That is what we should all expect — and all we should ever ask for — an equal chance to succeed.

There are a lot of other reasons to support the standards, of course. First, as the governor and Legislature have demonstrated by holding hearings to discuss how to implement them, our state and local elected officials are 100 percent in control of how the standards apply in Florida. As a conservative, that state control is important to me.

Additionally, to make the standards as strong as possible, they were developed in conjunction with other states that were also looking to improve their education systems. Forty-six states — led by their governors and chief state school officers — joined the effort.

These states asked teachers, education experts and employers to contribute to the work. Of course, each state knew that it would be able to take the standards and use them in ways that worked for them. And that is just what happened in Florida.

Finally, the standards just set guidelines — not hard and fast rules. Across our state, local officials and teachers have been given flexibility to develop curricula and teach their students in ways that work for them. Common standards are the best way to measure how well our students are ready to graduate and enter college, the military or the workforce.

Recently, there have been a number of people who have come out against implementation of the standards. Although I respect and defend their right to free speech, and applaud their passion and courage to exercise that right, I respectfully disagree and believe that much of what they say does not match the facts.

Contrary to their arguments, the Florida State Standards belong to our state and local school districts. They offer the best approach to make sure all our kids receive the education they deserve. And they will be a great tool to make sure that our children become productive citizens who make us all proud.

Tony Buntyn is a cyber warfare consultant and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

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