Imagine a world where imagination is all that is needed to create dream schools run by dream teachers. That’s the educational ideal that Marty Nemko, an educational evaluation expert, envisions in an essay for TIME that
calls for an end to Common Core. He argues that life lessons—like the cost of college, for example—are more important than algebra. He argues:
Not only would students learn more in a first-things-first curriculum, they’d be more motivated to learn because the material is obviously important.
His suggestions follow an opening that lists all the facts about how U.S. students trail the rest of the developed world in subjects such as math and science.
The U.S. is moving toward mediocrity in a world that requires anything but. And it’s not for lack of spending. The U.S. ranks #1 in the world in per-student spending on education.
Nemko’s vision that pairs “dream teachers” and “dream schools” is certainly an ambitious one, trimmed with all the warm and fuzzy buzzwords of a political campaign. Here is where Nemko loses me, though. How can we simultaneously say that we are trying to compete on the world educational stage but neglect to follow internationally benchmarked standards, like Common Core? Perhaps instead of making the idea of innovation and standards mortal enemies, we should be looking for a way to combine the two for the best outcome for students. Who says that we need to abandon or back away from higher standards to deliver better real-life outcomes for our students? Dream educators can be successful teaching Common Core—and we shouldn’t abandon our heightened standards for the pipe dream that Nemko describes.
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