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By Brenda McDuffie

The Buffalo Niagara region is experiencing an economic renaissance unlike anything we have seen here in more than 40 years.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has kept his promise to invest historic levels of state resources – including the final installment of the Buffalo Billion – into the region, construction cranes tower everywhere you look and real estate and small business leaders see opportunity downtown.

This period of strong public and private investment may very well be a tide that lifts all boats – but not if large segments of our population have holes in their boats. And we don’t have to look any further than our schools to see those holes.

Students across Buffalo continue to languish in schools that are separate and unequal – a high-stakes game where it’s City Honors or bust. We have a mishmash education landscape where below-standard academic performance at one school is considered quality performance at another school in the same district.

This is especially true in communities of color, where for generations, students have been left behind for no reason other than a failed education system.

The impact of this education failure is both broad and deep. Across the country, an estimated one-half of students in community colleges need some remedial help despite graduating from high school. This reality forces students to burn up their student aid just to catch up to where they are already supposed to be.

The lack of education is not someone else’s problem; it is holding our entire region back economically.

It’s wrong, and now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to fix it. Across the state, education leaders are implementing the Common Core, a set of high standards for our schools.

Not only does Common Core provide specific goals for what students should know at the end of each grade, it works to build their understanding on those specific goals every year. Extra attention is placed on persuasive writing and strategic thinking in mathematics. Around these clear goals, teachers have the flexibility they need to design a curriculum that will work for their students.

Together, the combination of high standards commonly implemented across the region and state is exactly what we need to make sure our workforce is ready for the opportunities we can see coming.

The seasons are indeed changing in Buffalo and the Niagara region. We are turning the corner after a long, cold economic winter. The Common Core is essential to helping us make sure all children have the skills to fully enjoy the bright economy that exists before us.

Brenda McDuffie is president and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League.