Many thanks to Achieve for allowing us to share this important information from their February Newsletter!
As states continue to implement college- and career-ready standards and prepare for the transition to aligned assessments, it’s more important than ever to remember why college and career readiness is imperative for all students.
A recent Time cover story looked at “the diploma that works,” specifically referring to the diploma earned in six-year high school models in which students also earn an associate’s degree. At the heart of this story was an endorsement of a college- and career-ready agenda that prepares students to graduate from high school with the skills they need to pursue postsecondary training to fill the growing skills gap.
The college- and career-ready agenda has always been a jobs and equity agenda with the goal of equiping all students with the foundational knowledge and skills they need to be successful. Despite mounting evidence that current graduates are ill-prepared to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow, there continues to be resistance to the college- and career-ready agenda, largely stemming from a misinterpretation of the “college” in college and career ready as referring to four-year colleges. In fact, graduating college and career ready is simply about high school graduates having options and being able to choose their own career path. To have choices, graduates must leave high school ready — without the need for remediation – to pursue additional education and/or training whether that is at a community college, technical college, apprenticeship or certificate program, or a four-year college.
When students do not graduate from high school adequately prepared for college and career, two things happen. First, a skills gap in the workforce emerges as workers do not have the skills needed for today’s jobs. It is estimated that there are at least four unemployed individuals for every new job opening, largely because of this skills gap. Second, students also spend money on remedial coursework if they do not graduate from high school prepared for the demands of postsecondary, coursework that does not count toward a degree.
Middle skills jobs, those that require more than a high school education but less than a bachelor’s degree, comprise about half of all U.S. jobs. Historically, these jobs were available to those with a high school diploma (sometimes less), but changes in production and increasingly sophisticated technology now require more education and preparation for this growing group of jobs than ever before.
According to work done by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, future demand will be for workers who have some kind of postsecondary training or education. The Center’s analysis found that the recession accelerated the loss of many low skills jobs in the U.S. labor force and is driving the economy toward middle and high skills jobs.
Middle skills jobs are a gateway to the middle class. Those who obtain some postsecondary credential are more likely to have increased lifetime earnings versus those who only have a high school diploma. According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, the pay gap between young adults, ages 25 to 32, with college degrees and those who have gone no further than high school is greater than ever. The typical high school graduate in this age range with just a high school diploma earns just 62 percent as much as the typical college graduate.
If today’s students are going to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, states must continue to pursue the college- and career-ready agenda by implementing college- and career-ready standards, adopting and implementing graduation requirements that deliver on those standards, administering assessments aligned to those standards and developing and refining data and accountability systems that value and incentivize college- and career-ready measures. Without proper preparation leaving high school, students will not be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in meeting the expectations of the job market.
Another survey has confirmed teacher enthusiasm for the Common Core State Standards. Yes, it is a project of Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which the standards’ detractors characterize as the all-powerful Oz, but the data is indisputable.
- 70% of math, English language arts, science, and/or social studies teachers in Massachusetts are enthusiastic about the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in their classroom.
- 74% of math and/or English language arts teachers in Massachusetts believe the standards will have a positive impact on students’ ability to think critically and use reasoning skills.
- 26% do not expect the Common Core to have an impact either way or are not sure
- Zero percent of respondents expect a negative impact
Nonetheless, each day also brings more examples of misinformation that just boggle the mind.
“It seems the Common Core State Standards detractors follow Lenin’s maxim that, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
That’s how Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel, started his op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Barrett says concerns about the math standards are without merit in explaining Why CEOs Support Common Core. He argues that the standards are more rigorous than what was in place previously, pointing out that:
“Students who have mastered the Common Core will be ready to take higher-level math coursework in high school and college, enabling them to pursue the career of their choice, including STEM fields.
This matters because
…U.S. students rank 26th against their international counterparts on mathematics assessments. More than 30% of students enrolled in college require remedial math courses — and that costs students, parents, states and our economy in missed opportunities, hard-earned cash, state tax dollars and wasted resources.”
Critics of the Common Core State Standards may be mistaking media willingness to print their conspiracy theories with support for their efforts to derail state implementation, but it seems to us that the press is simply drawn to the controversial. Rational commentators remain steadfast in calling for states to proceed onward.
As Barrett concludes:
“I’m encouraged at the prospect of the Common Core improving opportunities for more young people. And I continue to be puzzled as to why the detractors think the status quo is good enough. Not for my grandkids, and not for yours. Full speed ahead with implementation of the Common Core.”
In commenting on recent efforts to delay implementation of college and career ready standards in New York, the New York Times urged staying the course in its February 15th editorial (emphasis mine):
“The new Common Core learning standards, which set ambitious goals for what students should learn from one year to the next, are desperately needed in New York, where only about a third of high school students graduate with the math and English skills necessary to succeed at college. But the standards, adopted in 2010, have had a bumpy rollout and are under siege from several constituencies.
To keep the momentum going, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Board of Regents, which oversees education in the state, need to resist any effort to roll back the reform. They have to continue to address legitimate criticisms of the way the standards are being put into effect — while also countering the rants of union leaders and other critics who are deliberately misleading the public.”
It is unfortuate that this controversy is more about adult objections to the process of developing and implementing college and career ready standards than substantive debate about whether these benchmarks will serve our nation’s children best. Perhaps it is because there was extended and detailed consideration of that issue in 2010 when 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted standards based on common core principles and aligned with college and career expectations.
The convergence of education and the economy is evident in two separate reports issued this week. The findings make it clear that we need to pay attention to the competencies our children acquire in school if we expect them to be gainfully employed as adults (not to mention happy and productive individuals).
The Pew Research Center‘s report on The Rising Cost of Not Going to College tells us:
“On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education. And when today’s young adults are compared with previous generations, the disparity in economic outcomes between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less formal schooling has never been greater in the modern era.”
We’re not talking about small change – the Pew analysis finds that college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $17,500 more annually than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma.
In Massachusetts, 72% of jobs by 2020 will require a career certificate or college degree, yet 38% of students entering Massachusetts public colleges and universities are unprepared for college level work. This means that students who have passed MCAS and earned good enough grades for college admission have to spend time and money on remedial courses before they can start earning credit toward a degree. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, if Massachusetts high schools were to graduate all students ready for college, the state would likely save as much as $76 million in college remediation costs and lost earnings.
Giving every child the education that prepares them to do college level work – even if they choose a different pathway – is essential if we want our kids to have options in a future with jobs we haven’t even imagined yet.
If you don’t believe me, just look at the Innovation Index issued annually by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative or the State of Technology report released this week by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. In addition to describing the impact and significance of the technology sector on the Massachusetts economy, the report warns:
“Policies in Massachusetts should help promote competitiveness, innovation, entrepreneurship, and opportunity. … it turns out that creating tech jobs is not the real challenge. It’s filling them.”
“Attracting, developing, and retaining talent is perhaps the most critical issue threatening our ability to compete, lead, and grow as a world tech leader in the global economy. … We … don’t graduate enough high school students with the computational skills to enter the knowledge economy.”
MBAE believes Massachusetts can educate our children to earn the credentials necessary to fill these jobs, earn family-sustaining wages, be productive citizens and help our economy thrive. Our New Opportunity to Lead campaign is developing proposals for a new direction for education so we can not only claim to have a “world class” education system, but actually deliver one. These reports make it clear why it is imperative that we do so!
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” - John Adams, Argument in Defense of the British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, Dec. 4, 1770
Opponents of the Common Core State Standards have shown a propensity to repeat misinformation as if it was true. This intentional deception continues despite repeated corrections and citations of the facts by multiple participants in the actual meetings and activities being mischaracterized. Many articles have been written that address common myths, including this one in the Huffington Post by Joy Removits and a very good one by Bill Gates (who gets criticized for the good deeds of his generous philanthropy) in USA Today.
Now, our friend Michael Petrilli at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has posted Lies, Damned Lies, and the Common Core on his Flypaper blog that anyone who wants to see how misinformation can spiral out of control has to read! Spoiler alert: Opponents blame Common Core for odd statements and questions that PRE-DATED the standards! Mike’s post even includes a clip from Fox News, reporting erroneous information from a publication called EAG News put out by the Education Action Group Foundation based in Michigan.
What would John Adams say?!
Despite a steady stream of misinformation in recent weeks, the new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks that include the Common Core State Standards will better prepare students for higher education and the workplace. For the record:
- When nearly 40% of MA students require remedial coursework upon entering college, when gains in student achievement have clearly leveled off, when employers say they can’t find workers with the right competencies to fill jobs, and when even our top students remain far behind their peers in leading nations, it’s clear we are not sufficiently preparing students for the future. The reforms that have led to great progress over the past 20 years are not enough to take us where we need to go in the future.
- The Common Core State Standards were developed through a voluntary, state-led effort facilitated by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The writing of the standards, which involved educators and experts from Massachusetts, predates the Race to the Top competition. For a great summary of the true history of the standards read this Huffington Post column.
- Assertions that the new MA standards end with Algebra II are patently false. The standards include advanced courses such as precalculus and advanced quantitative reasoning. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provides sample pathways for students to complete an accelerated track and prepare for college-level STEM courses.
- The new math standards were developed with input from critical stakeholder groups in this state including teachers, professors from Tufts, Framingham State, Boston College, Middlesex Community College, UMASS, Worcester State, Salem State, Bridgewater State, Springfield College, Lesley, Harvard, Boston University as well as representatives from several foundations, business associations and advocates for students.
Massachusetts has avoided much of the controversy over the standards since they are so closely aligned with what we were already using. As new assessments that are aligned to these standards and actually measure a student’s ability to apply what they have learned are introduced, it will be important for anyone concerned about the college and career readiness of our children to make sure the information they are receiving is valid and accurate. Sample test items for every grade have been posted online so teachers, parents, students and others can see what students will be expected to do on the field tests later this spring.