The Common Core State Standards, adopted by the California Board of Education in 2010, describe the skills all students are expected to demonstrate at the time of graduation and at each grade level along the way. The basic purpose of Common Core is to help students become both college and career ready.
Ensuring that our students are both career and college ready is an important and sensible goal. While preparing students for their futures has always been one of the main goals of public education, the path to achieving these goals has had to continually evolve to meet the needs of a changing world. The Common Core State Standards are a natural next step in that progression.
The key, and I believe it makes good sense, is to focus on what every graduate knows how to do rather than just what facts they have committed to memory. This is the uncomplicated essence of Common Core. Although it is a simple concept, it will take great effort to accomplish this outcome.
Schools in Solano County have been gearing up to implement this exciting, yet challenging, new approach. It is exciting because the simple joy of learning and teaching will once again be reignited as we move away from a system that has primarily valued the reciting of facts. It is exciting because meaning and purpose will have a big part in what is taught and what students are expected to know how to do. Students will be more engaged in hands-on and project-based learning where they will apply their knowledge to real-world problems that will bring their education to life.
The only common thing about these rigorous standards is that 45 states in our nation understand their advantage and have also adopted them. This will help students receive a good education, even if they have to change schools or move to a different state.
These standards have roots in the early 1990s when business leaders approached the National Governors Association with grave concerns about the ability of our educational system to meet the demands of a global economy. The governors recognized that we needed an educational system that produced more than graduates who knew facts, but rather graduates who knew how to do something with those facts.
The new Common Core State Standards, in addition to content, will focus on four key areas. Students will: (1) think critically and solve problems, (2) learn to collaborate and work with others, (3) effectively communicate verbally and in writing, and (4) exhibit creativity in solving real-life problems.
If one reflects for a moment on the demands of the world in which we live, it is clear that the Common Core State Standards make sense for every child in California. This common-sense approach will ensure that our graduates are prepared for the world we live in today and not the world of the past.
Isn’t that what we all want for our children?
Jay Speck is the Solano County Superintendent of Schools.