Raising standards hard but necessary

The state Education Department is warning parents and teachers that the scores on this year’s state assessments in grades three through eight English language arts and math could be dramatically lower than last year. That’s because the 2013 tests reflect the tougher learning standards of Common Core. SED is basing its forecast on test results seen in other states such as Kentucky, where scores dropped 46 percent from the previous year.

It’s understandable we feel disappointed when we see lower scores, but it should be expected because of the higher educational goals built into Common Core Learning Standards.

On the other hand, maybe we should appreciate this as a wake-up call for our students’ sake. They are the ones who must build a life on the educational framework we provide in our schools. Common Core was designed to strengthen the framework and position our kids for a brighter future.

We are conditioned to view lower scores as failure. We don’t like to think that we are less than OK in any way, including education. In fact, our rapidly progressing world will not slow down for an education system that lags behind, and our kids pay the price.

Welcome Common Core into the mix. The initiative, being implemented in 44 states, is a starting point to ensure our students graduate equipped to succeed on whatever path they choose, whether it is college, vocational training, the military or a job.

This will be challenging because the learning standards are higher and emphasize critical thinking and communication skills beyond simple memorization of facts. However, this is what our kids need to succeed in the world beyond high school.

This will be hard because all change is hard, and requires everyone – teachers, students, parents and principals – to get past a very natural fear of change to embrace a new model. But the results will be measured in success stories from our graduates.

This may be exasperating because right off the bat, lower test scores this year will shine a light on where we are not OK, not yet. But that’s not a bad thing. It establishes a baseline for improvement, and offers an opportunity to thoroughly prepare students for their future, the ultimate goal of education.




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