With Core Standards, Preparing for College or a Job

From The Associated Press, “States to establish uniform standards for teaching“:

SUWANEE, Ga. — By third grade, students should know how to write a complex sentence and add fractions, no matter if they live in Georgia or California.

Eighth-graders should understand the Pythagorean theorem. And by high school graduation, all U.S. students should be ready for college or a career.

That’s the goal of sweeping new education benchmarks released Wednesday called the Common Core State Standards, a project that aims to replace a hodgepodge of educational goals varying wildly from state to state with a uniform set of expectations for students. It’s the first time states have joined together to establish what students should know by the time they graduate high school.

The Common Core State Standards were developed and unveiled today under the leadership of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The news release about the event in suburban Atlanta is here.

Steve Rohleder, head of the Health and Public Service Operating Group for software manufacturing-company Accenture, was a panelist at the roll-out and he made a point that reflects the real concerns of employers in the United States: 

Any person in the global community today will tell you that what keeps them up at night is the war for talent. The U.S. is losing our competitive advantage and the way to regain that is based on the standards we put in place. I really believe that we have to do something that is bold and innovative.

The competitiveness context was echoed by Craig Barrett, former CEO and chairman of Intel, in a quote provided at the event:

The K-12 standards work recognizes that students in the United States are now competing in an international environment and will need to meet international benchmarks to remain relevant in today’s workplace. We are pleased that both college and career readiness have been considered as the standards were developed and view this work as foundational in the effort to address the full range of academic, employability and technical skills that students need to be successful.

Maureen Downey of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered today’s event, and her blog account  captures the message while allowing a little legitimate skepticism to creep in: Well, will they work? It did look like the jargon and acronyms got a little thick today, always a risk when educational reformers gather.

One educational thinker you can count on for clarity is Chester “Checkers” Finn, and he writes at National Review Online’s The Corner, “New Education Standards: A-plus“:

The four documents total a couple inches of paper, and I don’t claim to have mastered them. But I’ve seen enough to restate with fair confidence an earlier (and better informed) Fordham Institute judgment, namely that millions of American schoolkids would be better served if their states, districts, and schools set out in a serious way to impart these skills and content to their pupils rather than the nebulous and flaccid curricular goals they’re using now.

Employers would be served well, too, we think.


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