Sunday, October 26, 2014

Common Standards

     Well, I've held out this long.  I've tried to stay away from politics in this blog.  But I've talked about grades and grading; I've talked about national testing; and I've actually talked about Common Core before.  However, this time I want to share my thoughts about Common Core and address some of the counter-arguments that (in my opinion) are not sufficient to justify a school district or a state to refuse to use them.


      I support the use of the Common Core standards for English/Language Arts and for Mathematics.  I also support the common standards for Science that are coming to our public schools.  I support these standards because they were created by experts; they were vetted by experts; and they give all 50 million U.S. students a fair and equitable education.  We all know that education throughout the U.S. is not uniform because individual state standards vary widely.  Common Core sets a level playing field for all.  Additionally, these common standards are consistent with those from countries that produce students with the highest academic abilities.  We all love competition and we all love to win; so I would think that we would all want our students to be able to fairly compete with anyone in the world for 21st century jobs.  Common standards allow us to do this.

     So here are some bad reasons for turning away from common educational standards:

1) I'm a Republican and Common Core is a Democrat thing--so I'm against it.

     We live in a partisan country.  Some people are strongly Republican and some are strongly Democrat.  If a cause aligns to a particular political party, then the loyal will support it no matter the cause and no matter the details.  But Common Core is not a Democrat thing and it is not a Republican thing.  It came from the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers.  Just as No Child Left Behind was not a Republican thing (Edward Kennedy co-wrote NCLB), Common Core is not a Democrat thing.

2) Common Core is too hard.

     Compared to the academic standards in some states, Common Core will appear to be more rigorous, less rigorous, or about the same.  Since different states had different standards in the past, this comparison will look different to people in different parts of the country.  But the goal of school is to teach and prepare students for the world that they will inherit.  The goal is not for students to get good grades.  We want our students to be successful, but too many of our students have been very successful in high school only to fail in college.  That is a national shame on our nation.  Common Core is trying to prepare students for both higher education and for the word of work.  If it is hard, then students are being well prepared for their future.  Isn't that something we all want?

3) It was implemented too fast.

     States were given four years between state adoption of the Common Core standards and the actual implementation of the Common Core standards.  I think that a lot of people feel that the Common Core came all of sudden--one year we didn't have it, and the next year we did.  There was a lot of planning behind the scenes that the general public may not have seen.  This is why it seems to be so sudden to some.  If there were ten years between adoption and implementation, some people would feel the same way.  Why should we wait to give our students a world-class education?  And why give up on it just because it was fast?

     Also, public education is often accused of moving too slow.  Fifty million students and three million teachers comprise a very large group; and it is often slow for this group to change.  If we drag out the change and take our time, it might never happen.  We have to "rip off the band-aid".  Now is the time

4) (This bad reason hasn't occurred yet, but it will towards the end of this school year.)  See, everyone did poorly on the test.


     This year, for the first time, the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests will be administered to students in grades 3 to high school.  In all likelihood, overall student scores will be low
compared to their class grades in math and English/Language Arts; or compared to past standardized test grades.  And there will be all sorts of renewed calls to cancel Common Core.

     In fact, whenever a new standardized test is administered, scores are often low at first and then increase over time.  Remember, the content of the courses are more difficult, so naturally the tests will be more difficult and some students won't be able to rise to that challenge as well as other students.  Once again, the goal of school is to teach and help students to be prepared for their future.  We are not helping students by giving them easy tests and then telling their parents that they are smart and then having these same students struggle after high school.  Colleges will recognize these new tests that same way they recognize the SAT and ACT tests.  They have to be the sort of tests that really prepare our students for college.

     We have a real chance to improve the education of millions.  And it could happen to this current generation of students.  We can say that we were there when U.S. public schools took a bold new step toward becoming the new standard in world-class education.  This is education's "moon shot".  Let's make a real difference; let's give our kids the best!



Public Schools and Choice

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