In my last post I talked about the busy time in schools I called March Madness. Clear evidence of that is the fact that I wrote that post 4 weeks ago and am just now returning to type my next thoughts. It is during this frantic last month that it occurred to me that the most important skills that I use daily in my career are critical thinking, problem solving, and time management.
Critical thinking, problem solving, and time management are not classes that I took in high school or college. Rather, they were embedded by my teachers in the lessons taught in trigonometry, creative writing, and chemistry. While I look back at my schooling and feel that it was strong overall, I can honestly say that I do not remember every fact and function from those (or any) classes. In fact, I can claim to be one of those people who did very well in high school but struggled in making the adjustment to college. By today’s vernacular, I don’t think that I was college and career ready.
The funny thing about this term college and career ready is that it came about as a result of colleges and workplaces looking at our graduating students and their own expectations and deciding that what they were receiving from high schools wasn’t exactly what they needed. This evaluation of the product and the corresponding response of introducing standards that reflect a need for more critical thinking and problem solving is a process of evolution. This need for a better individual to start college or in the workplace has driven to the development of the expectations for schools and what they are to teach students to properly prepare them for life after high school.
Here’s the kicker: educators and schools have listened to the needs of post-secondary institutions and employers and have put together learning targets of “success” that fit what is being asked for. We call those the Common Core State Standards. Please understand that these are markers of success that have been established by educators and departments of education in response to the changing needs of colleges and job-providers. The plan for getting students to these learning goals is curriculum, which is very much shaped by individual states and local districts and put into place in the best way possible by talented teachers. The Common Core State Standards are not an infringement by the federal government on local control; in fact they don’t provide the structure necessary for instruction. They simply provide the finish line that needs to be crossed in whatever way is most effective for each teacher to their own students in their own little corner of the country.