Friday, July 18, 2014

Common Core - Lets Get Real

There is much to argue about in the Common Core but my least  favorite approach to the discussion is when people focus on where it came from as if that was the big issue. It's not, it should be a question of what the standards should be.  

There is endless discussion as to whether the states themselves really initiated the development completely on their own or were the private foundations involved in concept development. The Federal Gov't became supportive of the effort which in my view, is great. Did they push it too hard? Too late? Too early?   Some people see the Feds as more involved than they were.  At the end of the day, who cares? I don't.

 Irrespective of its exact process of creation, the Common Core is the best efforts by the some of the best people to formalize what our students need to be learning to succeed.  As the world changes, we are all competing in national and international markets so the old arguments for regional and state approaches is increasingly less valid.  Also, in the modern streamlined world where cost and waste are no longer tolerated, it is crazy to have independent groups in each state developing standards and having so many versions of textbooks. Crazy!

There are states that are fiercely independent (ie Texas) which will continue to call their standards the TEKS but the TEKS too will probably be updated to be very "Common Core-ish" since this is currently the best approach.

The Common Core is not perfect and there's plenty to argue about.  I personally would have put algorithms and computer science and data analysis and statistics into high school math and perhaps not included Alg 2 and Calculus. My rationale is that high school math should develop advanced analytical reasoning in areas that are most likely to be useful for further study and careers. With 30 years of professional experience, I've never professionally encountered an "X squared" or had to take a derivative or an integral but I sure wish that I was more prepared to deal with probability and understand my digital world.  

I also would have a complete set of standards including science and social studies. Politically, very difficult but in terms of education, it would obviously be the best to have a coherent set of standards.

My point is the Common Core is today's best effort but it's not the be-all and end-all. The people fighting the Common Core are using its origin mostly as an excuse.  They generally have a political agenda which is counter to the economic realities of what our students need to compete in today's world and they focus not on the issue of what is in the Common Core but the trends that it represents.  It recognizes that the future belongs to the highly educated who can deal with technology and communication in much better ways.  This is a very painful reality to those who think the future belongs to the US as some sort of exceptional destiny. While most of today's technology is US born, this could and probably will look very different in 50 years. Fifty years ago, it was unthinkable that any Americans would buy "foreign" cars.  The lax US car and steel industries and some global economic trends go us to where we are today.

The analogy is that we are not destined to be world leaders. The opportunity that we have is to compete. The Common Core and the increasing rigor of education is part of this effort.

 I think entering into the debate of exactly how the CC came to be obscures the point of how important it is that we deal with increasing the 3Rs (rigor, relevance, and relationships) to our educational system for our country's future.