Forgive the formality of the following post, but I may send this to some newspapers, so I modified the style. Just FYI. Oh, and no one from the Common Core has offered to pay me for this endorsement, but they still can… Now for the blog:
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have received a lot of press lately—most of it negative. Parents are concerned about the sudden change to learning objectives, school boards and communities are worried at what they see as a loss of local control, and some teachers see the new standards as another salvo against autonomy and creativity in the classroom.
But while I don’t doubt the sincerity of the above concerns, the truth is that the Common Core represents a crucial, necessary shift in educational objectives. In other words, if we want our students to be successful in the 21st century, we should welcome the CCSS and make sure our schools have the educators, time, and resources to teach them effectively.
Why? Because the bottom line is that what matters most in the modern, professional world is what one knows and can do. The blue collar, union jobs of the 20th century that paid middle class wages with guaranteed benefits are gone. So too are the days where one could climb the corporate ladder by being loyal and working at the same company for 30 years; a recent study in 2012 showed that the average worker stays at one job for 4.4 years. In the modern economy, one’s talent and skills matters most.
The CCSS address this economic shift by focusing on skills rather than rote memorization or some pre-determined, provincial set of knowledge. For example, previous English classes might have emphasized understanding certain texts, memorizing arbitrary vocabulary words, and writing a series of essays. Nothing is necessarily wrong with this; however, without clear learning targets, what the students left the classroom with, whether it be skills or grade, was subjective to the teacher, the district, and the state. The Common Core eliminates this subjectivity by specifying exactly the kinds of skills a student needs to learn to be successful in the modern economy, giving teachers specific language and benchmarks to ensure that students are, in fact, learning these skills.
In this sense, allegations by the Tea Party and others that the CCSS represent some governmental conspiracy with an ideological or political mission is absurd. They’re SKILLS for math and language arts, and if one was so inclined, it would be possible to teach much of the Language Arts CCSS using only the Bible.
Beneath the surface, I suspect the real problem people have with the Common Core is that it’s harder. Students are being held to a more rigorous measure of their skills (which, shockingly, they resist), and when that affects grades, parents rush in to defend their kids against what they see as an unfair twist of the system. Teachers, too, have had to ramp up the rigor of their classroom instruction to ensure that students are meeting the new standards, and rewriting curriculum as well as changing how we assess and grade students isn’t easy.
So resistance to the CCSS is understandable, but ultimately it’s counterproductive. Because it’s good that school is getting more challenging for students, and it’s good that teachers have made their classes and grading more rigorous. Indeed, what’s so wrong with learning objectives that ensure our kids have the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy?
See for yourself at: http://www.corestandards.org/.