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Back to school – and new common standards?

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A few years back, a Kentucky school district had 167 different mathematics curricula being taught in its 152 schools. Instead of clear goals and consistent content, there was a mathematical free-for-all. That’s what’s been happening in too many of our country’s schools for far too long.

Some argue that the common core standards would discourage teacher creativity and dumb down requirements. I disagree. Identifying a set of requirements that all students could count on attaining would instead strengthen accountability and provide a clear educational map for all students.

Consider the consequences of not acting and maintaining the status quo. Since 1980, the educational gap between low-income students and their higher income peers has grown wider every year, as measured by standardized test scores, high school graduation, college-going and college-graduation rates. Continuing on this course is the equivalent of “national suicide,” as columnist David Brooks put it in The New York Times last month.

The common core standards would level the playing field and show that low-income children matter. Those Kentucky students – and children from thousands of other school systems nationwide – would all be taught the same content in algebra and calculus, and even better, they would build the foundation in earlier grades for algebra, considered a gateway to academic rigor and college success.

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