No Matter What They Choose To Do, High Standards Are Preparing Students for Their Future Endeavors After High School

Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty have a new piece in American Spectator arguing that Common Core State Standards are misguided because they limit a student’s chance at a “broad academic curriculum” and focus too much on “specific skills” aimed at workforce development. But high standards don’t narrow academic focus, they widen it, better preparing students for college and careers. 

Robbins and McGroarty identify Common Core teaching as only “skills training” in their piece and write, “skills training would seem to be necessary for developing a workforce, but focusing on that misses the bigger picture.” The authors also believe “it’s generally not the job of K-12 schools (outside of vocational education for families that choose it) to impart them.”

Schools have a responsibility to prepare students for life – whether they choose to go to college after high school or pursue a career – they need to be ready.  Common Core State Standards are designed to foster critical thinking and creativity in classrooms by establishing rigorous education standards consistent for all students. Learning to the high standards ensures that students can think critically and analytically, better preparing students for college or future careers, and allowing students to be better equipped for wherever life may take them.

Robbins and McGroarty ignore the extraordinary amount of research that shows how the curriculum associated with high, comparable standards is critical to reading comprehension and acquisition of literacy skills. Higher education leaders also support the standards and say they are preparing students for the content they need to know and the skills they need to have when they reach college.

Naysayers like Robbins and McGroarty continue to perpetuate an unfounded myth that high standards lead to a decrease in critical thinking, but current educators overwhelmingly say the opposite is true. The truth is that higher education standards help young people develop the critical thinking and analytical abilities they need to compete and lead in today’s world, no matter what path they take.

High, comparable standards are designed to be “less prescriptive” than many states’ old standards, US News & World Report notes. “For example, the English language arts standards don’t prescribe novel or non-fiction selections. Instead, they gradually push students to more deeply understand and reflect on what they read, using texts of the teacher’s or district’s choosing.”

The increased emphasis on close reading is helping students to explore texts more deeply and build the literacy skills they need to be successful in school – and become lifelong readers.  When it comes to the math education associated with high standards, it is designed to help all children, regardless of their background, develop a stronger understanding of math.

High standards are helping students broaden their critical and analytical skills so that as the authors say, “He or she will be well prepared for further study or skills-development — well prepared for life.”  At least we can agree on that shared goal.