Public schools in NYS are now beginning to implement the Common Core Standards. These are a thoughtful progression of learning expectations put together by a group of educators from across the United States. Forty-five of the fifty states have adopted them so far. In addition to getting students “college and career ready,” using Common Core Standards will help develop consistency in education for students who move from state to state or from district to district.
So if the Common Core Standards are so good, why is there controversy?
Well, first of all, it is change. Education has gotten comfortable in its current path. We know what we’re doing. We’ve done it for generations. We already have lesson plans, adjusted and used successfully for the past twenty years. We’ve had “standards” and assessments in place for a very long time, so why do we need new ones? And hasn’t almost everyone gone to school and thus knows how it should or shouldn’t be done based on their own experience? But sometimes what we fail to realize is that the world is not standing still. It is changing faster and faster with each graduating class. And unless we change with it, ahead of it, and prepare students for the world outside of “school,” we are not succeeding.
Secondly, it is hard. The Common Core Standards is a rigorous curriculum that will require students to read and analyze complex texts, to solve real-world problems, to make connections between subjects, to think, and to develop listening and speaking skills. Out of concern for the “whole child” and his/her self-esteem, we are sometimes guilty of not expecting students to perform to the best of their abilities because we don’t want them to experience failure. We have forgotten how to teach children to learn from their failures. Yet, that is the way the most creative thinkers and inventors in our history were developed. They failed over and over, thought about their failures, made adjustments, tried again, rarely felt sorry for themselves, dealt with the frustration, and never gave up. There is something immensely satisfying about persevering until a challenge is mastered. It helps stretch the limits on what we can accomplish.
Thirdly, it requires us to work together. As we go through these changes, we will need to support each other and stay the course. It’s easier to point fingers, complain, lie in wait to catch the inevitable mistakes any new initiative makes, grumble about mandates, or take a passive wait-and-see attitude. But those won’t get us to the goal: providing an education that prepares our children to compete and be successful in a rapidly changing world. To do that, we need to work hard, to encourage and support each other, to be open to new ways of doing things that correspond with expectations beyond the classroom, to analyze our own practice and ideals, and to be unwavering in doing what is right for our children. The children of Newfield deserve our best and if we all move in the same direction we can achieve excellence - one step at a time.
Dr. Cheryl Thomas, Superintendent of Schools