CREATING STEM EQUALITY THROUGH STANDARDS
Benefits of StandardsProponents of Common Core standards believe that these standards will increase rigor in the classroom by providing a nationally recognized set of standards that all students should achieve. It can help increase creativity and collaboration in classroom instruction. It also serves as a great leveler of educational opportunity. No longer can what student learning standards be determined by their geographical location. Each student in a Common Core state will have the same expectations, meaning that Alabama's STEM classrooms will match Arizona's, which will match Washington's. This also helps provide an easier transition to students who have to change schools due to their parents needing to move for work. They will easily be able to slip into their new classrooms and pick up almost exactly where they left off.
The standards are not meant to hold students to an unrealistic goal that most cannot achieve. Instead, they are meant to make sure that each child is ready to attend college and succeed based on internationally bench-marked standards. The goal of these standards is to place students on-par with their peers around the world. The United States has fallen behind, particularly in STEM education. As more schools adopt these standards and the standards are perfected, students will quickly adapt and begin to benefit from these changes.
Criticizing Common CoreHowever, despite these benefits, there has been a wellspring of people who oppose Common Core standards. The typical arguments against the standards break down into two large camps. The first is that local forces will lose control over all education that happens within area schools. The second argues that the roll-out so far of Common Core has been a disaster, expanding the number of tests that students have to take while encouraging rote memorization and endless worksheets.
Both of these concerns are ultimately inaccurate (Common Core Myths vs. Facts). Common Core delivers a set of goals and benchmarks for students to achieve in each grade, but it does not mandate how teachers are meant to achieve these goals. Further, the standards themselves do not include any specific provisions on testing, the types of materials to be used, or the method which should be used to assess student achievement. Has the implementation in the standards in some states been below standard? Absolutely, and parents and teachers are rightfully upset about this. However, tossing these next generation standards out because their initial implementation did not go smoothly is just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Common Core Standards are setting a national bar that can ensure that all students are prepared for success in the STEM fields in the 21st century.
Next Step in STEM StandardsWhere do standards go from here? Math has already been taken care of in the first round of standards approval. Next, lawmakers should be encouraged to take a look at the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards seek to set new benchmarks for science education for students across the country. While the authors of these new standards applaud the work that has previously been done on the current set of standards, these current standards were published more than 15 years ago. This means that some information may have changed and pedagogy may have advanced. However, due to much of the fervor that has erupted over Common Core standards, few states have rushed to start tackling the needed improvement of STEM education. People around the country should encourage their policymakers to look into these standards so that they can start to work on implementing a new system of goals for science education.
Individual schools, however, do not have to wait. If there are STEM schools in the country that want to adopt these more advanced and contemporary standards for their own work, they can. That way, these schools can continue to meet state and national standards while providing a positive and pedagogically current experience for all students without the delay of waiting for legislatures and bureaucracies to act. Contrary to the criticism, schools and local controls ultimately have more control over STEM education, when they choose heighten the standard of achievement for their students.
The benchmarks of the past worked well for today's adults, but the world is rapidly changing. No longer can each parent be expected to have a full grasp on what type of educational pedagogy or curriculum will be best for their children. There are simply too many factors for most people to consider. By instituting a set of national standards that provide comprehensive, common-sense benchmarks for success for all students, STEM education can become much more cohesive throughout the country. No longer will students' geographical location weigh on a college's admission decision or an employer's hiring decision. Every student will have a much more equal opportunity for success, and it is this idea that underpins much of the public education sector in America. This boost to STEM education cannot be stressed enough, and it offers the chance to keep students in the STEM pipeline by keeping them on grade level for success with each passing year.