The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.The problem is that focusing on "college and career readiness" is the wrong goal. Worse, it's a goal that will ensure that less students are prepared for college and/or careers.
Let's break down that mission statement.
- The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.
In December of 2012 Forbes Magazine came out with a list of the top 10 skills that 2013 employers were looking for in employees. Almost all of these qualities were not content based. They were not skills that could be neatly written into standards. These are traits like "critical thinking" and "complex problem solving" that require experience with solving real world problems.
And proponents of CCSS will tell you that those standards are designed to do just that. But they aren't. They can't do that. Because CCSS are designed to be used to judge children, schools, and teachers on standardized tests.
So, here's what's really happening instead of that experience with solving real problems. School districts are rushing to buy textbooks that are aligned to CCSS so that students can pass those tests. Teachers are being told not to stray from teaching the lessons in those textbook programs so that students pass those tests. Students are being taught how to pass those tests. Nobody ever solved a real problem in their community by working out of a textbook or workbook.
Here's the truth: Focusing and measuring what students know will always prevent you from focusing on what students can do. And they can do amazing things if we'll let them.
- With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
Instead of focusing on preparing students for "college and career", we should be preparing them for life. Heaven knows, there are plenty of people who were successful in college and/or are successful in their careers that are miserable. How many times have we heard about wildly "successful" people who, when we define success as more than "how much money you make", aren't?
We're missing the forest by focusing on the trees.
So, instead of preparing students for college and career, I propose that we prepare students for life. Teach them how to think for themselves. Teach them how to solve real problems in society. Teach them to come up with creative solutions, to make a difference, to experience the joy of being kind to others, to leave their communities better, and to advocate for the things they feel passionate about.
Instead of discussing a list of things our students need to know that was lobbied for and developed with money from large profit-driven corporations (that may or may not have our children's best interests at heart), imagine if teachers all across the country spent professional development time discussing project, inquiry, problem, and service based learning projects that allow our students to learn content while also learning the very things that will help them succeed in an unknown future. Imagine if our focus was on student learning instead of "standards implementation".
The beauty of this goal is that, along with leaving students prepared for life in ways that our increasingly narrowed curriculum cannot, it will also prepare our students for their futures in every way possible.
Teach them to think for themselves, to love learning, to problem solve, to innovate, and to connect with others, and there will be nothing they cannot accomplish.
They'll even be prepared to be successful in college or their future career.