Common Core Critical to Preparing Students

High school students in graduation robes sit in rows.

A high school graduation ceremony. Photo by hharryus, Flickr Creative Commons

February 19, 2014

Since 1884, AAUW’s corporate structure has established that local members, not national policy staff, set local education priorities. Recently, AAUW state leaders urged the elected national Public Policy Committee to take a position in support of the Common Core State Standards Initiative — a state-led, voluntary effort that established a single set of educational standards for K–12 students in English and mathematics. AAUW state leaders supported this effort but were increasingly confronted by misinformation and half-truths put out by politically motivated groups.

As trusted messengers of policies that promote educational equity for all students, we believe it is time to rally the troops and come together to set the record straight in support of states that are working to implement the Common Core.

The Common Core represents a critical component to preparing students for postsecondary plans — and to preparing them equally. Teachers, parents, school administrators, state leaders, and experts from across the country provided input in the development of these standards. The federal government had no role in the development of the Common Core and has no role in its implementation. The initiative is a state-led effort, and adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory. Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted these standards.

“AAUW members believe that the success of rigorous educational standards established by the Common Core states provides our students with a baseline for future academic and career success,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW vice president of government relations. “We will not stand silent in the face of political shenanigans that seek to undermine the Common Core’s promise of educational equity for all students regardless of their zip code.”

The standards don’t tell teachers what to teach; they tell teachers what students need to know to succeed. That’s why77 percent of teachers support the standards, according to a 2013 survey.

“Common Core doesn’t dictate curriculum. It sets goals that provide our students with a benchmark to assess strengths and identify areas of improvement,” said Judy Pfeil, chair of the AAUW Public Policy Committee. “We must support the work of governors and state legislators who believe, as we do, that students in one state should receive the same quality education as students in another state — and be equally prepared to get a job or further their education in any state.”

AAUW’s own research has shown that large discrepancies exist in student achievement by income level and by race or ethnicity. Students who graduate from high school in states with lower math standards may be ill prepared for the rigors of college and science, technology, and math careers. For girls, this disadvantage, combined with stereotype threat, can mean shying away from STEM fields completely.

The Common Core will help close that achievement gap by ensuring that all students in the United States are held to the same expectations in reading and math. To ensure that all students have access to a quality public education, AAUW branches and states will be given the opportunity to educate their members and the public about this critical education campaign. AAUW members who wish to get more involved on this issue should contact Erin Prangley, AAUW associate director of government relations, at or 202.785.7730.

Erin Prangley By:   |   February 19, 2014