LITTLE ROCK — A coalition of Arkansas businesses, organizations and parents is launching an initiative to champion the embattled Common Core State Standards.

"Raise Our Grade" is the name of the initiative started by Arkansas Learns, a coalition with members including Murphy Oil, Entergy Arkansas, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, the Arkansas Parent Network, the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges and the Arkansas School Boards Association, among others.

The coalition stated in a news release it supports the standards because they will provide a true picture of how Arkansas students compare to their peers across the country.

"There was a time when folks said you could build a wall around Arkansas, and we would be just fine," said Gary Newton, president and CEO of Arkansas Learns. "Well, they were wrong then, and they’re wrong now. Arkansas’s Common Core State Standards tear down walls, so our people can compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime."

Arkansas implemented Common Core gradually, achieving implementation at all grade levels for the first time in the current school year. The standards have been controversial, with critics in Arkansas and other states saying they are too rigorous and put too much emphasis on standardized testing, among other complaints.

An effort to defund Common Core in Arkansas failed during this year’s legislative session.