As a member of Business Leaders for Michigan, I support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and urge the Michigan Legislature to swiftly move forward with their implementation. In Michigan today, only 68% of third graders are reading proficiently; only 20% of high school graduates are considered career- and college-ready; and 21% of high school graduates are enrolled in a remedial math course at a community college or 4-year university. This is not acceptable if we truly want our children to succeed. The simple truth is that in order for Michigan to compete in a knowledge-based, global economy, we must improve the academic performance of our students.
The Common Core standards are designed to do just that. The standards are not, as some have expressed, a curriculum – all decisions about what materials to use or how to teach are still made at the local level. In other words, the Common Core does not tell kids what to read – only that kids should be able to read. Instead, the Common Core sets consistent academic expectations for all Michigan students in math and English. These standards are grounded in evidence, internationally benchmarked, and prepare students for college and careers.
And yes, the Common Core are tougher than what we have now. The Common Core sets high but much needed expectations for achievement if we truly want to give our children the best footing possible whether they are career or college bound. Consider this: a recent Business Leaders of Michigan survey of small, medium, and large businesses showed that 54 percent of small and medium businesses and 56 percent of large businesses found that applicants do not possess the skills necessary to meet job requirements. And according to the Lumina Foundation, in 2025, 60 percent of the jobs we will need to fill in Michigan will require at least an Associate’s degree. We must set higher standards to ensure that Michigan’s kids have the opportunity to be the future entrepreneurs, innovators, and talent that drive Michigan’s economy.
Over the last two years, our state leaders have taken many positive steps. They changed our tax structure so that Michigan’s business tax climate is now among the best in the nation. They adopted balanced budgets on time without gimmicks, paid down our debt, and eliminated the deficit. The results are positive, unemployment has fallen and our GDP and personal incomes are up.
None of this was easy. But our leaders put Michigan’s interest before political expediency. It’s time to once again do what is right. We must continue with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards to ensure that all Michigan kids have the academic knowledge and skills to succeed after high school. This will help ensure that our children are getting an education that will open doors, expand their options and prepare them for a bright future in Michigan.
J. Donald Sheets is executive vice president, CFO, and regional president – North America for Dow Corning Corporation. He also serves a member of Business Leaders for Michigan.