By Jim Sampson, member on the Buffalo Public School Board of Education:
As elected officials, we have a responsibility to be leaders and problem-solvers. Last week, the state released results for new tests aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards for grades 3-8 which revealed that we have a problem—too many of our students are not being prepared to succeed. As a community, we must do whatever it takes to ensure that our students graduate with the core knowledge and skills they need to meet the demands of today’s economy.
For too long there has been an unacceptable mismatch between what students are learning in school and what they need to know to be prepared for the workforce and to be fully engaged citizens. Among students who started at Erie Community College in 2011, 41 percent needed remedial coursework. Buffalo’s high school graduates are not graduating ready for college-level work—exactly why we need high standards that are tied to the realities of the 21st century economy, such as critical thinking and problem solving.
New York’s Common Core Learning Standards are designed to teach skills and knowledge students need to succeed. These test scores mark a realistic baseline that teachers and parents can use to provide more support to students on their path to college and career readiness. We all have a role to play in helping students succeed.
As school board members, we must set a vision and strategy for excellence in student achievement in the district. We must make decisions that prioritize our students, while also making our decisions transparent to the community. As a community, we must raise our expectations for our students and the school district. Through our combined efforts, we can ensure that students reach their full potential and are prepared for college and careers.
For those unfamiliar with New York’s Common Core Learning Standards, I encourage you to visit EngageNY.org to learn more as well as to watch this three-minute video from the Council of Great City Schools that explains the Common Core.
Armed with information, these test scores can be a starting point for transforming learning and compelling real change in our education system. After all, a quality public education is vital: Great schools mean more students attending college, more students prepared for meaningful employment, less people living in poverty, and a brighter future for our children.
James M. Sampson is a member of the Buffalo Public School Board of Education representing the West District. He is a trustee and founding member for the West Buffalo Charter School and an adjunct professor for the School of Social Work at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
 Democrat & Chronicle. “Remediation at community colleges.” http://www.rocdocs.com/database/remediation-community-colleges