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Originally published Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 3:48 PM

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Editorial: Engage in new Common Core education standards

Washington state’s shift to Common Core world-class academic standards is challenged by a disengaged public.

Seattle Times Editorial

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PUBLIC schools in Washington state are shifting to Common Core, a set of rigorous national standards in math, writing and reading. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and other leaders behind the effort should take note of a Gallup poll that found two in three Americans have never heard of Common Core.

Despite adoption of the standards by 45 states and the District of Columbia, clearly a deeper dialogue with the public is needed.

Parents need a firm understanding about what Common Core is and what it is not. Otherwise critics will distort it.

Political conservatives are already making mischief by casting Common Core as a federal intrusion upon local control of schools. Nice try, but the Obama Administration did not play a role in creating Common Core, which grew out of a bipartisan effort by state governors and education leaders to raise academic standards nationwide.

A handful of states are already rethinking Common Core, some citing its expense. Washington’s budget writers are already building Common Core into education funding.

The lack of broader public engagement may be due to a sense of déjà vu. Indeed, this is not the first attempt to raise standards, but it is the most promising.

The new benchmarks provide tighter, consistent expectations across the country. A coherent educational system is further improved by Common Core’s emphasis on fewer topics covered more deeply.

A Fordham Institute study found that Common Core standards are more rigorous than most states’ standards, including ours.

Common Core works well with the Next Generation Science standards adopted by Washington state earlier this month. The standards specify what students should know from kindergarten through 12th grade in four areas of science: physical science; life science; earth and space science; and engineering, technology and science application.

These changes support our state’s shift to requiring 24 credits to graduate from high school, an increase from the current 20 credits required. State lawmakers included money in the budget for schools to offer six-period days, enough to fund the increase in credits needed to graduate — but failed to link the money to the planned increase. Rectify this with a tweak to the budget or by passing a new bill. State Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, is working on a smart fix.

The time is now for public engagement and legislative support. The new standards are expected to be fully in place statewide next fall.

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