National PTA Endorses Common Standards

By Sean Cavanagh — June 25, 2009 2 min read
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We at EdWeek have written about various organizations lining up in support of the multi-state effort to create common academic standards, as well as about skeptics of that plan and how it’s being carried out. Now backers of the standards can boast that another group has rallied to their cause: parents, or at least parents represented by the National Parent Teacher Association.

The organization, headquartered in Chicago, released a statement on the eve of its annual meeting in support of the “Common Core” effort to create uniform standards in reading and math. The PTA seeks to advocate for the welfare of children, and build ties between parents and schools, according to its official description on its website. Anybody who joins a local or state PTA becomes a member.

“America’s children haven’t been able to compete with students from around the globe for years when it comes to academic achievement,” the PTA says in a statement. “That’s why the [the organization] is calling for the creation of a voluntary, internationally benchmarked common core of state standards in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.”

I haven’t seen an official estimate of the PTA’s membership, but the group says it “comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders.” The organization will become an “endorsing partner” of the Common Core effort, which is being led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“No longer should states have different expectations for what students should know,” said Charles J. “Chuck” Saylors, the national PTA’s incoming president. “No longer should states have different expectations for what students should know. We should all be on the same page.” Parents, he added, “need to be able to articulate to [their] children what they need to know and be able to do to be successful in college and in their career.”

In addition to making the oft-cited argument about the connection between common standards and foreign academic and economic competition, the PTA contends that the effort can help bring greater equity to the nation’s schools, and increase academic expectations.

How powerful an ally is the PTA for Common Core? It’s possible that having an organization that can reach parents in communities of all sizes across the country could help build support on the ground for the multi-state effort, as other factions weigh their options. What role might the PTA play in the months ahead?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.