Members of the military today must be physically fit enough to hike rugged terrain carrying a hundred pounds of body armor, weapons and other gear, and mentally sharp enough to assess the security of a locale, determine who is a combatant and who is a civilian, and decide on the best response. They also must be able to assist local authorities responding to emergencies or disasters here in Tennessee.
To ensure that future members of the military — and the civilian workforce — are ready to succeed, Tennessee schools are in the middle of an important mission: putting higher expectations in place in every classroom to better prepare students for the future. This work is vitally important to the U.S. military, including the Tennessee National Guard.
For the last few years, the military has been deeply concerned about the lack of preparation of our students. Nationally, 30 percent of high school students cannot pass the U.S. military entrance exam, which measures basic reading and math scores. The security needs of our nation demand a high level of military preparedness and we must be able to recruit soldiers who can succeed in our challenging environment.
Because of these challenges, I am excited about Tennessee’s work to raise the bar in the classroom through the Common Core State Standards. Tennessee’s standards are a set of expectations for what public school students must learn in math and English. They emphasize critical thinking and problem solving, and they help students to communicate clearly when speaking and writing, to master technology and to understand other perspectives.
The skills that are emphasized by Common Core are the skills that military leaders value and need in our servicemen and women.
Tennessee adopted the Common Core State Standards as part of years of work to raise academic achievement in response to demands from parents, students, educators and government leaders. Our old standards were so low that far too many students graduated from high school poorly prepared for the next steps in life.
There’s another important way that Common Core State Standards benefit the military and military families. These standards, which were developed by leaders from the states, have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia.
Military families often must move from town to town and state to state — up to nine times during a student’s school career. Military parents naturally worry about how their children will do in new schools because they have seen their sons and daughters struggling to catch up when the new school’s standards are higher or struggling to stay engaged when their new school has lower expectations. With the Common Core State Standards, military parents can rest assured that their children will be attending schools with consistently high expectations no matter what state or school district they live in.
The Department of Defense Education Activity schools have adopted the Common Core State Standards, and the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission has endorsed the standards because they support the work with states to ensure military children have the educational opportunities they deserve.
The Common Core State Standards set high expectations for all our students. It makes sense to military leaders and to me that when we expect more, students achieve more. Every day, our servicemen and servicewomen know they must live up to high standards because our nation’s security is depending on them.
Tennessee has a long tradition of military service, dating to 1780, when Col. John Sevier called for "100 good men” and 200 answered, and that tradition is why we are proud to call Tennessee the Volunteer State. We want to make sure that tradition continues far into the future. Successfully incorporating higher standards into our state’s public schools will help guarantee that many, many young men and women from Tennessee will be prepared to embark on bright careers, in the military and otherwise, far into in the future.
(Editor’s Note: This guest “Viewpoint” on Tennessee’s new Common Core Standards has been written and submitted by Maj. Gen. Terry “Max” Haston, Adjutant General of Tennessee. Haston is Tennessee’s 75th Adjutant General, and the commissioner of the Military Department which includes more than 14,000 soldiers, airmen and civilian employees of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Tennessee State Guard.)