by Zachary Hodges, WakeEd Intern
I stumbled across Common Core during my first week as an intern here at WakeEd and knew that understanding this set of standards was important to understanding the climate of education in Wake County and North Carolina. Common Core seemed to offer American children the opportunity to excel in the face of more rigorous standards. To me, it was a no brainer: adopting Common Core meant raising standards, allowing our children, and you’ll hear this all the time, “to compete in a global marketplace.”
I am not an educator, nor have I gone to school to study education policy or, to be honest, any kind of policy at all. In fact, I graduated with what many are not afraid to refer to as “unmarketable” degrees: a double concentration in Creative Writing and Film Studies, with a minor in History for good measure. But my studies did equip me with the ability to research any given topic in an unbiased manner and then relate my findings similarly.
As I began my research, I realized that there was no consensus about Common Core. This confounded me. Every educator with whom I spoke, whether teacher, administrator or advocate, had a different opinion. Some scoffed at its blatant disregard for the amount of time instructors had to teach a certain amount of material, or the fact that kindergartners would one day be taking quantified electronic tests that would follow them through high school. Others were overjoyed to see that their kids would be facing higher standards, and welcomed the freedom to educate the way they chose to due to the open format of the standards.
Here’s what I think. As a student who rose through the Wake County Public School System, I’m not afraid to say that the standards should be raised. The standards I faced made me feel more prepared than I might be. Remedial math was a common first step in the college careers of many of my fellow graduates. (Why are there remedial classes in college? To help those who were “proficient” in one state or one school system meet standards held in other states and school systems.)
WCPSS is a fantastic school system. I was educated by some of the finest instructors not only in North Carolina but also the United States. But the shortcomings present in WCPSS, one of the best systems in the nation, makes me question the standards to which students are being held in other parts of the country.
I do not have an answer as to how students should be assessed without standardized testing. That’s how I was assessed, and it’s all I know. But, when we become focused on standards, on standardization, isn’t there some danger in losing sight of individual students and their talents?
I do know that standards must be raised in order to survive and thrive within the whirlwind of change that a new millennium has brought us.