Why new state standards will help us all.
GUEST COLUMN | by James Burnett
The United States school system is undergoing a significant transformation. The rollout of the Common Core State Standards marked a new era in teaching. In the beginning a majority of states signed on to the standards, but as the standards became politicized, some states have moved to create their own. Despite this perceived setback, the standards have succeeded in moving the country forward by setting a more ambitious agenda. Several states that declined to adopt, or abandoned the Common Core, have set higher benchmarks by drafting their own standards.
Whatever your state chooses to call the new math standards, they are long overdue and will prepare students for the twenty-first century by teaching them how to think for themselves.
For the first time, states across the nation are adopting comprehensive, rigorous standards. Depending where you live, the education standards might be called Common Core State Standards, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, Common Core with California Additions, or Florida State Standards to name just a few. The bottom line is that American students are falling behind internationally, and these new state targets will help to level the playing field.
The higher benchmarks are necessary to keep pace with the changing world that shapes the way students acquire and learn information. Teaching methods that have been used for over a century have become stagnant and ineffective. Preparing students to compete globally requires a commitment to overhaul antiquated methods in favor of research-based strategies to advance learning. The biggest trend is a move away from a set of learning targets that were characterized as “a mile wide and an inch deep”. The new standards provide focus and coherence that were noticeably absent from former curricula.
How, Not What, to Think
Lessons from the new standards are no longer concentrated on rote memorization – in essence, teaching students “what” to think. Educators now strive to give students the tools to learn “how” to think. Memorizing facts has given way to teaching the connection between the concepts and translating problems to real-world scenarios. This approach promotes active engagement and increases enthusiasm. Young students are natural learners and problem-solvers.
Whatever your state chooses to call the new math standards, they are long overdue and will prepare students for the twenty-first century by teaching them how to think for themselves. Today’s math lessons are very different from the previous generation’s elementary instruction, but so is the world our children are growing up in.
It is important in today’s hyper-politicized climate not to lose sight of a goal we all can agree on. We want students to succeed, and develop skills that will help them live fulfilling lives and pursue careers that matter.
James Burnett is a passionate educator with a commitment to innovating the way mathematics is taught. Over the past two decades, he has written and co-written more than 250 mathematics supplemental and core resources for elementary instruction. As president of ORIGO Education, James strives to lift the profile of mathematics through dynamic professional learning and the development of revolutionary print and digital classroom resources.