My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Case for Common Educational Standards

Note: This article was sent to me by one of my blog readers, and I thought was really interesting (and timely).

Wall Street Journal
April 6, 2010

Recently, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a group of 48 states organized by the nation's governors and chief state school officers, released draft K-12 education standards in English and mathematics.

As a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I know that common education standards are essential for producing the educated work force America needs to remain globally competitive. Good standards alone are not enough, but without them decisions about such things as curricula, instructional materials and tests are haphazard. It is no wonder that educational quality varies so widely among states.

English and math standards have so far mostly been set without empirical evidence or attention as to whether students were learning what they needed for college and the workplace. College educators and employers were hardly ever part of the discussion, even though they knew best what the real world would demand of high school graduates. Luckily, about five years ago, states began to raise the bar so that their standards would reflect college- and career-ready expectations.

The draft common core state standards build on this effort and are a significant improvement over most current state standards. The reaction to them has been positive from across the political spectrum, from teachers unions (the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers) to conservative governors such as Georgia's Sonny Perdue and Indiana's Mitch Daniels. They provide a grade-by-grade progression from kindergarten to high school graduation and rely heavily on well-regarded state standards, such as those from Massachusetts, Minnesota and California.

Fifty different sets of standards make no sense. It is much more efficient and less costly for states to mutually develop standards and then work together on the tools needed, such as tests and textbooks, to ensure the standards reach classrooms, teachers and students.

I realize that some critics worry that common state standards will lead to federal standards and a big government encroachment on matters traditionally the domain of states and localities. But as a conservative businessman, I can't agree with these arguments. The common core effort has been 100% voluntary. And while the federal government hopes to incentivize states to adopt common standards, the effort has been entirely state-led, with no federal funding or exertion of influence over their content.

The world has changed considerably in the past century, and our education system must keep pace. In 1950, 60% of all jobs were classified as "unskilled" and available to those with high-school diplomas or less, according to research published by the Education Testing Services. Now more than 80% of jobs are skilled, requiring education and training beyond high school, according to research published by the Brookings Institution. For example, to work on the manufacturing floor at Intel today, an employee must have an associate's degree or higher.

Of course, education reform is not merely about creating future workers. Making sense of retirement options, health-care plans and mortgages—not to mention bills pending in Congress—requires a sophisticated level of knowledge and skills. We have an obligation to prepare our students to be capable adult citizens.

State education standards evolve over time, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative is an important step forward. I hope final standards soon will be issued and that states begin to adopt and implement them. This will help ensure that all students can receive the college- and career-ready, world-class education they deserve, no matter where they live.

Mr. Barrett, a former CEO of Intel Corp., serves as co-chair of Achieve, a nonprofit, bipartisan
education reform organization.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Well, since we are so in the vanguard here in 01002 I'm sure this means all those other laggard districts will soon adopt 3 mandatory study halls.

What is really interesting here is that this is NOT a federal initiative-- it is a state led initiative to have uniform standards that make sense for the real world. You know-- so our kids can actually get good jobs in a very competitive global marketplace instead of just feeling good about themselves because they recycle, drive a Prius and have been indoctrinated in Amherst's "Social Justice" curriculum since age 3.

Even if it were Federal, so what-- If the Feds can take over banking, healthcare, the auto industry, etc. why not common educational standards?

Anonymous said...

My sense is that, as soon as you even vocalize the word "standards" anywhere near matters educational (as opposed to, say, matters environmental)in Amherst, you begin to get a reflexive response of dissent. As we all know, there are many wonderful, intangible things that happen in a classroom and between a child's ears (that we assume blithely are happening in and emanating from every classroom in Amherst) that can't be measured or tested by anybody.

So "standards" becomes a buzzword, the shouting starts, and the eyes and ears of parents in town start to glaze over. No common ground here, therefore no worthwhile discussion.

Rich Morse

Tom said...

I favor standards, although I know it's become a loaded ("coded" in local parlance) word in the endless Amherst debate.

However, when people express a desire for their children to achieve "excellence," they are really talking about a standard. A perfectly legitimate one.

What a quandary we're in: we hate to make value judgments, yet we (must) make them all the time. We want to believe this administration can raise student proficiency, yet we distrust the government to actually produce success. What I'd like to know is, in the ## countries whose students now rank ahead of the USA's, are there common national standards?