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Orlando Sentinel: Julio Fuentes: Common Core standards will move students forward

Friday, November 15, 2013

By Julio Fuentes, Guest columnist

If you follow education news in Florida like I do, you’ve probably seen the recent coverage of Common Core State Standards, the intense public hearings, and the critics across the political spectrum sharing their opinions about the future of education in Florida.

What is missing from the coverage is the increasing number of Florida students who are ill-equipped for college and forced into remedial coursework because their high-school curriculum did not adequately prepare them for the next step.

According to a recent report from the Florida College Access Network, only 63 percent of Florida’s public high-school students are ready for college-level reading, writing and math by the time they graduate.

Also, StateImpact Florida has reported that half of Florida’s students who took the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test from 2010 to 2011 failed to pass at least one section of the exam and were forced to enroll in remedial classes when they arrived at college.

Unacceptable statistics like these are a huge red flag for education professionals across our state. The growing number of students who need remedial coursework is alarming, and it costs our higher education system millions each year. As parents and education reformers, what are we doing to address this issue and prepare our kids for higher education?

College readiness is the keystone of a bright future; yet we hear critics of Common Core balking at raising standards in our schools, and offering no sound solution to this problem. Our children are graduating from high school without the knowledge and resources they need to succeed in college and at the professional level.

Readiness must improve, and in order to bring change, we must provide our students with a solid, well-rounded education that prepares them for the next step in life — whether that is college or career education.

Common Core is part of this solution. These new standards provide clear goals for what students should be learning from kindergarten through high school. Common Core standards give students, parents and teachers a structured method of understanding what children are expected to know by the time they move on to college — and eventually compete for jobs around the globe.

Not only do the standards provide teachers with concrete objectives and a greater focus on “core” subjects, but they help to guarantee students are gaining the skills they need to succeed in crucial subjects like math and reading.

This week, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options is hosting its 2013 Education Summit in Miami, where education leaders and teachers are discussing solutions to the low academic achievement of Hispanic youth — a crisis we cannot allow to continue.

In early December, Cambridge International Examinations will host an event in Orlando to support school leaders and education professionals as they prepare their students for the challenges of higher education. The Cambridge Global Perspectives Colloquium will offer free workshops and demonstrations of classroom practice and innovative assessment to help school leaders and teachers cultivate core argument, research, collaboration and communication skills among their students.

We need more events like these to keep the conversation going, keep the door open to change and keep more students succeeding.

Like Senate President Don Gaetz, who just last week voiced his support of Common Core, I am a strong supporter of these solid, new standards. I know there will be always be critics who don’t want to move forward. But I also know that we can do better — and our children deserve better.

By setting high standards, we can make sure that American students experience high-quality learning on a global level. More focus, consistency and positive conversation about the future of education is needed to bring change.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Hispanic Council of Reform and Educational Options and is president of the Florida Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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