Schools across the region are well into the 2013-14 school year.
In the classroom, things are slightly different this year, and businesses should take note. That’s because the new Common Core State Standards have officially been implemented in K-12 schools around the state. The standards are for the math and language arts subjects so far, and are geared toward making students college- and career-ready.
These standards – not curriculum, standards – were adopted by 46 states and will still allow teachers and school districts to create their own curriculum. Common Core is not a federal initiative.
The Standards align students across the nation, meaning a student in, say, Georgia, is meeting the same standards as a student in Washington. This helps when families move from one state to another.
So why the new standards? Simple: our economy needs them because today’s jobs require different skills.
Doug Sovde, Director of Content and Instructional Supports for Achieve, an education policy think tank, says by 2018, the job market will be short three million college graduates. That’s just five years from now.
Here’s an example of how the new standards differ from the previous ones:
(Source: Doug Sovde)
The reading and writing subjects will be grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational. The previous standards didn’t focus much on informational text in elementary and middle school. That will change. Common Core was created through research, which showed that nonfiction pieces were common in college and the workplace. In the working world, if an employee produces a piece of work based on guesses and opinions – rather than clear evidence – their work will suffer.
Technological advances are also addressed. Think about your job today. Does it include using a computer? Probably. The new standards put a stronger focus on keyboarding, for example. Common Core requires students to be able to use a keyboard for assessments. Using a computer in the working world is common – when writing proposals, articles, emails, etc.
The Standards also require students to use the Internet for research and use video and images with their writing. Businesses that hire workers with STEM skills should be encouraged by the new standards.
In math, students won’t just learn “how to get the answer.” They’ll acquire the ability to access concepts from various perspectives.
Again, Common Core is just focused on math and language arts so far, but science isn’t far behind. On Oct. 4, Washington became the 26th state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, a similar initiative to Common Core. The standards will be implemented starting in 2016-17 and set expectations for what every student should know in the areas of physical science, life science, earth and space science and engineering, technology and science application.
The way our state educates its students is changing. What does this mean for the business community? The hope is that students are better prepared to enter the workforce, and unfilled jobs can be filled with skilled, qualified candidates.
When companies move or expand to the region, they no longer first ask about the best location. They ask about the talent pool, and whether there is a qualified workforce so they can hire the right employees.
The economy is changing at a rapid pace. Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards are important if we want to remain competitive and attract companies to our region.