As a former public school teacher, I have taught both the traditional state standards and Common Core aligned standards. I have dug deeply into both, researched their effectiveness, and watched them play out in my classroom.

Outside of school, I have observed the vitriol over Common Core. I have read the think pieces and mocking Facebook posts. I have seen caring, concerned Christians suggest that these standards will not benefit American kids. And I have keep wondering: Why are so many people reacting this way? Where’s the misunderstanding?

Sometimes, we don’t recognize our privilege amidst the broken system; other times, we seek nostalgia and familiarity over innovation and change. And, all too often, we forget the millions of students in poverty whose need for reform might be greater than our own.

It makes sense to begin by clarifying the idea of standards. Unlike a curriculum, teaching method, or educational approach, a standard does not dictate how or what a teacher must teach. Instead, it describes a skill for students to master. The difference between Common Core and many state standards is simply the level of rigor, complexity and higher level thinking built into the standards. (Some of the key shifts in the Common Core standards are listed here.)

Regardless of your take on Common Core or the changing standards, the fact remains that United States is no longer the global leader in education. Nearly every year in recent history, we have fallen further behind other countries. This year, we ranked 14th in cognitive skills and educational attainment. Last year, students’ scores failed to even crack into the top 20 for reading and math.

While standardized tests certainly don’t measure ...

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