What is the Common Core?
The name has generated a lot of conspiracy mongering, but the superintendent of Jefferson Parish schools recently reminded editors of The Advocate that some of us are old enough to remember “new math.”
That was, as Jim Meza said, the approach that students should be taught how to solve problems instead of simply repeat the answers to math questions.
If “new math” was often parodied at the time, the fact is it was one of the earlier manifestations of the challenge facing Americans in a more complex world: knowing how to think, instead of just knowing that 2 plus 2 equals 4.
That’s a far higher and tougher standard for education. Not the facts that students need to know, although there are a lot of those in the Common Core standards, but preparing students for the thinking process that will allow them to be successful in a rapidly changing world.
“Teachers across Louisiana are planning and teaching using the Common Core State Standards,” the state Department of Education said. “Instead of teaching shortcuts to students, these standards foster the ability to think through problems and to reason independently. In short, the Common Core State Standards ask students to do in the classroom what they’ll be asked to do throughout life: think for themselves and solve problems.”
That more rigorous approach to education is backed by many groups that have looked long and hard at Louisiana’s place near the bottom of the nation’s educational rankings.
Education Superintendent John White and the majority of members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education appear firmly committed to higher standards. But the temptation of politics was apparent in an 8-1 that made modest changes to the state’s rules for implementing the new standards.
Is politics the right answer? No.
Among those recently backing the newly controversial Common Core were public policy groups such as the Public Affairs Research Council and the Council for a Better Louisiana.
Business groups also weighed in, including the chambers of commerce in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette, and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
We applaud the business community for speaking out on the issue. Today’s students, not a long time from now, must be the work- force of the increasingly complex business world of the 21st century.
ExxonMobil is one of Louisiana’s major employers, and the Common Core is vital to its future workers, CEO Rex Tillerson wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal.
“These days the energy industry tests for math and science aptitude when hiring for entry-level positions,” Tillerson said.
“Our industry is seeking to fill positions that range from mechanics and lab support to blend and process technicians. But many applicants fail these basic tests, losing out on opportunities for good pay and good benefits.”
Those jobs are not some abstract examples, but real jobs here in Louisiana.
“To abandon the standards,” Tillerson said, “is to endanger America’s ability to create the technologies that change the world for the better.”
We urge the state’s education leaders, and those at the local level, to stay the course on higher standards.