One of the loudest arguments against Common Core Standards is that they don’t apply to “real-life” situations and that their methods are too far removed from what actually happens in the workplace.
It's unfortunate that this argument is so prominent, because these standards were developed with the opposite intent. Connecting the material that kids learn with the real world abilities they need to succeed is a foundational element of
the internationally benchmarked standards. At the heart of Common Core is a recognition that students must be able to retain what they learn and that is accomplished by using real-life examples and applications. Here are just a few of the ways that the transition to the standards and new Core-aligned assessments will teach life skills:
Emphasis on the “how” of things. You can find the answer to anything by typing your question into a search engine box. Think about how often you rely on this technology to find answers to your everyday queries compared to the amount of effort you used to expend as a student before the Internet existed. Common Core puts an emphasis on the journey to finding answers, particularly when it comes to the math standards. It eliminates rote memorization and gives students the freedom to decide their own path to finding a correct answer.
Computer-based test taking. When was the last time you did anything in your professional life that was handwritten? Even if you are in a business where you handwrite invoices, receipts or memos, technology likely comes into play with communications, bookkeeping and other day-to-day functions. We ask our high school students to complete assignments online, take college assessment exams online and even apply to college online. It makes sense to shift to a universal computer-based assessment model for our younger students, too. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test aligns with Common Core benchmarks using familiar technology that helps take away some of the test-taking anxiety, allowing students to focus solely on showing what they have learned. These new tests also require more writing and break away from the decades-old “fill in the bubble” multiple-choice format that focused on rote memorization rather than any true critical thinking.
Better feedback. When you are on the job, your superiors do not wait until you’ve been promoted to review your strengths and weaknesses from the previous position. The end goal for tests like PARCC is to return answers to students in the year that the assessment is taken so it can have an impact on what they are learning in the present. Instead of reporting back to students on what they know, PARCC testing informs them about where they still need improvement in a timely way that allows that progress to take place more quickly.
Discipline-specific writing skills. Despite the dominance of digital technology, more than ever, many jobs demand strong writing skills. Common Core standards address this growing need by calling for more rigorous reading, writing and critical thinking across subjects. It is not enough to simply know something—you must be able to communicate that knowledge. Common Core does not supplant or discount language arts instruction, but strengthens it through better connecting the practice of writing with the needs of employers today.
Students, parents and educators are discovering Common Core and hearing a great deal of conflicting information. One truth that should not get lost in the public debate is how the new standards promise to create a generation of K-12 students who are not only prepared for the world stage, but who excel on it.
Matthew Lynch is a writer, activist and the Dean of the School of Education, Psychology, & Interdisciplinary Studies and an Associate Professor of Education at Virginia Union University. He spent seven years as a social studies and special education teacher in Mississippi—an experience that gave him a view of the challenges facing education reform. His articles and opeds appear regularly in the