It seems to me…
“A substandard education will always result in a substandard nation.” ~ Aubrey Priest.
The U.S. is far behind most other nations in student educational achievement. A high percentage of students are required to take remedial courses when entering college and prospective employers frequently complain about inadequate preparation of job applicants. The major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates are not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed in college and careers. Additionally, educational standards differ from state to state making it difficult for educational institutions or employers to evaluate graduates. In 2010, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), a team of educators, published a new set of standards, called Common Core, intended to better prepare students for college and employment.
According to HigherEducation.org, almost 60 percent of first-year students must take remedial courses in math or English. But even remedial courses are only able to partially compensate for inadequate preparation. A study by the U.S. Department of Education found that 17 percent of students taking remedial reading and 27 percent taking remedial math obtained a bachelor’s degree as opposed to 58 percent of students who did not take remedial courses[i].
The Common Core initiative only specifies what students should know at each grade level and describes the skills they must acquire in order to achieve college or career readiness. Individual school districts are responsible for choosing curricula based on the standards.
Kentucky was the first state to implement the Common Core standards when local school districts began offering curricula based on the standard in August 2010. By 2013 the high school graduation rate had increased from 80 percent in 2010 to 86 percent in 2013, and the percentage of students considered to be ready for college or a career went from 34 percent in 2010 to 54 percent in 2013.
Conservative such as Tea Party extremists, immediately denounced Common Core as a federal takeover of education (the federal government was not involved in the standard creation). This was predictable as they can be anticipated to oppose any change or anything new regardless of benefit.
Unfortunately, other groups, while believing in the necessity of improved educational standards and methodologies, also are increasingly objecting to the change. In addition to being unfamiliar with the new material, teachers feel threatened over student testing and linking students’ test scores to teacher evaluations. Parents similarly feel threatened by unfamiliar material and unable to answer their children’s questions. And students who feel overworked and stressed always can be expected to object to increased work and higher expectation. Forty-five states initially adopted the new standards but a number of those states under increasing pressure are returning to the older material.
There are many excellent well-qualified teachers but of concern to many educators is that students with the highest SAT scores are not choosing education as a field of study in college. Of the 6 percent of students who selected education as a major, their average math score was 35 points below average. The average verbal score for education majors was 26 points below average. It is not surprising that many teachers who themselves are deficient in math experience difficulty instructing their students in that subject.
New tests were designed to more accurately indicate competency – only 30 percent of New York state students received passing scores further angering many parents who preferred to believe their child to be better than average. While test results were alarming to parents and students, the results were considerable worse for teachers whose evaluations are dependent upon student performance. In many locations, anger has become open revolt. There is some consensus the new standards are being implemented prematurely but it is doubtful, based on prior experience, if any degree of preparation would be adequate.
Common Core is not the first attempt at education reform. During the 1960s, so-called New Math was a brief, dramatic change in the way mathematics was taught in American grade schools and to a lesser extent in European countries. American schools began to use textbooks based on set theory so students would have a better foundation and understanding of basic math principles.
The reaction was similar to that now being experienced with Common Core. The material placed new demands on teachers, many of whom were required to teach material they did not fully understand. Parents were concerned that they did not understand what their children were learning and could not assist them with their studies.
No one should advocating change just for the sake of change but it is obvious that something must be done to improve our educational system. While the Common Core standards might not be perfect, why not take the opportunity to at least try them and then improve those areas in which they are deficient. Everyone agrees something must be done but then objects to any recommended changes. Why not give it a try.
That’s what I think, what about you?
[i] Cavazos, Isabelle. Students need better indication of college readiness, The Oracle, http://www.usforacle.com/students-need-better-indication-of-college-readiness-1.2865187#.U1AYl-pOXb2, April 17, 2014.