Ten years ago, English Language Arts teachers used to speak of inspiring their students to become lifelong readers and lovers of the written word. They encouraged students to discover literature through their favorite authors and genres. Reading was supposed to be a magical experience that transported young people to new worlds. Excitement was the reading teacher’s buzzword.
The concept was simple: If students could latch onto reading and writing with a passion, then they would likely continue reading and writing –– and learning –– for a lifetime, whether they attended college or not.
Meanwhile, math teachers used to speak of applying mathematics to real-life situations, like creating budgets, balancing checkbooks or plotting mileage between points A, B and C. Yes, students were expected to move on to higher-order math concepts. But math was supposed to begin with everyday situations. Fun was the math teacher’s buzzword.
Flash-forward 10 years. Teachers and students now face a daunting array of new standards that federal and state education officials say are geared toward preparing all students for college and work. Universities and employers have for too long complained that students are finishing high school wholly unprepared for the demands of higher education and the workplace. And so the Common Core State Standards were born.
According to the website corestandards.org, the Common Core State Standards Initiative “is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing entry courses at two- or four-year colleges or enter the workforce.” States began adopting the standards in 2010.
Education officials in New York and Kentucky raced to implement Common Core, and this past year they completely reworked their English Language Arts and mathematics exams for grades three to eight to reflect the new standards.