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October 8, 2013 > Common Cores?

Common Cores?

Nearly every state, including California, has adopted the Common Core education standards intended to make every student ready for adult life upon high school graduation. In spite of vehement comments from pundits and professors, the only substantive criticism at this time is the troublesome implementation, which is a bunch of standardized testing (and the likely Òteaching to the testÓ).

So far, the State needs:
¥ 2 years to Implement
¥ 2 more years to Regret, I mean, Review Outcomes
¥ 2 more years at least to Implement a New System

So we have at minimum a 6-year lead time for change. I am of the belief that we must pass through the criticism stage (students only whine for four years at each school) and focus on how schools can acquire and sustain competitive advantages while coping with the Common Core standards.

In my broad experiences as an educator, there is nothing challenging about getting the masses to excel at standardized tests. When SAT prep courses and coaches became prevalent, getting a 1600 (now a 2400) was not so phenomenal. I recently took a practice exam from Smarter Balanced, CaliforniaÕs newly designed test provider, and already I can imagine test prep curricula that others and I could sell to the highest bidding schools (who would receive extra funding from the state as a result of an equitable test prep investment).

But over time, no school would have a sizeable advantage over another, due to an Òarms race,Ó and Òteaching to the testÓ is not a meaningful education.

Post high school employers will still want technical skills, perhaps more than ever. Regional Occupational Programs (ROPs) or their equivalents will add to distinct advantages. General education teaching will be phased out (aside from STEM), and teaching demand for direct careers (medical assisting, construction, etc.) will spike. High schools which enhance relationship with ROPs will be deemed indispensable by the funding authorities in spite of common core results. Ironically, local schools with savvy strategists will lash out against the State and establish themselves as the lynchpins of practical education.

Meanwhile, college admissions will give less emphasis to the core skills and seek portfolios of creativity. General Education teachers will have a narrow window of opportunity to push for an in-school academy of creative workmanship in business, arts, or any pursuit. Funding will likely come from business partners or specialized colleges (or from scoring highest on Smarter Unbalanced tests). In essence, the teachers to be phased out will push for home-grown equivalents of ROPs.

Extracurricular activities will expand for more ambitious school districts. Salaries for General Ed teachers will be cut in favor of assembly-level instructors for Core. Cost savings will transfer to more afterschool programs (French club might prove to be a UC breaking-point in the next six years). Some of these clubs might prove to be extensions of new academies mentioned above or student-grown work-functional clubs (e.g. the automotive team).

Effective principals and district boards will quickly elicit help to restructure curricula to strengthen the limbs, the peripheries. This will create a student body fit to win the race and provide a gold medal to truly innovative district boards, administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

Gregory Taketa
Union City

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