“It’s not about the Common Core…” is a statement I have made over and over again, as have many of my instructional colleagues. I came back from my very first training provided by the New York State Education Department in 2010 and announced that the premise behind the Common Core learning standards was outstanding and was something we could and should all believe in.
But the implementation and the implications for assessments and teacher evaluation systems was going to be the problem. My mind has not changed now, several years later. The work of the Common Core learning standards is good, but it has become muddied, as it is tied into the other state initiatives, and all at a breakneck speed that makes it difficult for our students and for those trying to implement these changes.
The Common Core standards themselves are highly appropriate. They have been devised with a goal toward ensuring that what we do, each and every day in the classroom, prepares our students for what they will face as 21st century learners and workers. As adults, we need to step back and think about what our children will be facing in the future — whether it is in 10 or 20 or 30 years. Their world will be more complex. It will have demands that are far different than what we can now imagine. Our school system cannot and should not look the same today as it did for us; or even the same as it did for our more recent graduates. If it does, we are not doing our jobs; we are stuck.
A study of the nation’s most rapidly improving schools shows that they are focused on a culture of high expectations, relevance of instruction and literacy; that is exactly what the Common Core Learning Standards are intended to do.
We have become inundated with some startling national facts :
- Only 18 percent of our students complete a four-year degree program in four years.
- Less than 10 percent of our two-year degree program students complete their programs in tow years.
- 70 percent of our young people are no longer eligible for military service because they are not high school graduates, cannot pass the literacy and numeracy test, or have health-related or legal issues.
- Over 51 percent of our two-year degree students entering their freshmen year in college pay for remedial classes that they are required to take because their college has determined that they are not prepared to face college standards. And these classes are not credit bearing.
- In 2012, over 34 percent of our four-year degree students dropped out of college.
- 48 percent of our four-year college degree graduates are in jobs that don’t require a degree.
The landscape is changing. Our schools are not keeping up with this change. The Common Core, by itself, will assist schools in preparing our students, equipping them with the essential skills that they will need to adapt to an ever-changing society. The Common Core will take students deeper into the curriculum, will cause them to become better critical thinkers and problem solvers, to face challenges and to work with one another for the solutions. These are skills that employers say are necessary to be successful employees.
So I go back to my original statement: “It is not about the Common Core…”. The Common Core itself is NOT the problem. I believe that all students can benefit from these new standards and that our teachers are working diligently to understand them, to teach them, to become facilitators of learning in their classroom, to embrace the changes that they bring. But unfortunately, the “other stuff” gets in the way, and causes all of us to take our eye off of what is important. And those who will be harmed are the very people, our students, who should benefit.
Lynne Erdle is superintendent of the Canandaigua City School District.