Nationwide standard on high school diploma would raise the bar

A lack of national educational standards for literacy, mathematics and sciences is putting Canada's economic prosperity in peril

U.S. presidential elections are always big events. With headlines dominated by scandals involving Trump and Clinton, some very important issues are getting very little notice.

Our neighbours to the south are struggling with an education issue that Canadians also share. In the U.S., an initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association, known as Common Core Curriculum, is creating controversy over whether federal education standards are required.

In Canada, each province is responsible to deliver a public education system for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The same holds true in the U.S., where each state sets the curriculum of study that prepares students for post secondary education or the workplace.

About 25 years ago, universities and colleges became concerned that the quality of education received by some states didn’t measure up to other states. In some cases, holding a high school diploma didn’t mean an applicant was ready for post-secondary classes. It was a shortcoming in the public education system of the jurisdiction when the student graduated from.

The National Governors Association set up a task force to establish standards for high school graduates in all 50 states. The two areas of focus are in English literacy and mathematics.

The curriculum was established in 2010. With the support of organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 42 states have adopted Common Core Standards. The eight holdouts, including Texas, Ohio, and others, have either refused the standards outright, adopted Common Core but later repealed it, or adopted one subject but not the other (for example, approved Common Core mathematics but refused English literacy).

Donald Trump says he is against the Common Core Curriculum. He promised to make the American Public Education great by leaving Washington, D.C., out of it. Standards should be set by parents and teachers at the local level. Parents and teachers should be the primary voice on their kids’ education, but standards need to ensure students are getting the best possible outcome in their learning.

Hillary Clinton is in favour of the Common Core Curriculum and promises to see national standards, applicable to all states, established under her administration.

While the United States is attempting to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, receive a certain standard of English literacy and mathematics ability upon graduating high school, no such movement exists in Canada.

Any move to introduce national standards, and to implement standardized testing to measure results, have been universally rebuffed in Canada. Our provincial governments line up with Trump on this issue by fiercely defending their right to set the curriculum and implement methods of teaching, such as discovery math.

Unlike in the U.S., our high school students are not necessarily measured against international benchmarks when it comes to the quality of education. We have no way of knowing if the skills our children are learning will help them to be competitive within the global marketplace.

We live in a global economy, where innovation and creativity matter more than ever before. To foster these attributes, Canadians have invested heavily in our public education. To produce the modern, knowledgeable, and skilled workforce of tomorrow, Canadians need to know if our students have what it takes, not only in terms of literacy and mathematics, but also sciences and other skills, that measure up with other countries.

To resist a national educational standard for literacy, mathematics and sciences, including standardized testing to measure results, is putting Canada’s economic prosperity in peril.

It’s time for our provincial leaders to come together, just as the U.S. governors have done, to raise the bar on public education.

Maddie Di Muccio is a former town councillor in Newmarket, Ont., and former columnist with the Toronto Sun.

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