Like many educators I have spent time this summer looking over the “new” common core state standards. (In science they are called the Next Generation Science Standards) Overall I like the idea of having common standards between states, because up till now each state has had different standards. Comparing states educational systems has been very difficult. Some states have created rigorous standards, like Michigan where I teach, yet others have just left minimal requirements. Colleges have complained about students arriving with poor skills. Often so poor the students need to take remedial classes in record numbers. While I processed all of the information, I felt it would be tough as an college admission officer not familiar with all the different state standards. As a new college student I would be depressed if I was placed in nothing but remedial classes as a freshman. Core standards are needed. BUT are they needed for ALL students?
As I pondered these ideas, I started to notice articles about “Where the jobs are now.” Sure you can find stories about unfilled STEM jobs that the Common Core will address. I noticed stories about jobs, I never expected: truck driver shortages and factory shortages. Does the common core help fill these vacancies? NO. What do we do with students who want to fill these positions? I believe the if the common core is the only avenue for them they will drop out! Is that what we want? I hope not.
We should not be telling our youth that the only path is College. Today more jobs do not require a college degree than jobs that do! Sure, I want to encourage everyone to get the best education they can, but there are many routes to success that don’t pass through college. As educators we need to be up front and honest with students. Tell them their options. Start them all off on the College Core path, IF and when it becomes evident that the path is not right, there needs to be another one for them to travel down.
When you ask a 5 year old what they want to be most will say: “Doctor, Lawyer, Fireman Police Officer, Nurse, or Teacher” as they gain knowledge about the many more professions it changes many times over. We need to offer core educational requirements that lead to ALL occupations: Musician, Artist, Cook, Truck Driver, Etc…. To do this we have to do away with 1 common core and create many cores that are as well defined as the common core. The common core is great for college bound students but not all students will go down that path.