Common Core, Workforce Development, and Assigning Blame

Photo Credit: Alpha Stock Images by Nick Youngson (CC-By-SA 3.0)

I read an article by David Cantor in The 74, about whether schools adequately prepare students for the “age of the automation.” I understand the concern about a  shift in our economy that is coming, and it will be disruptive. Those who beat this drum overlook the fundamental question – is preparing students for the workforce the role of K-12 education?

I submit no, workforce development is not the goal of education, a well-rounded education in math, literacy, science, civics, and the arts is the goal.

Kids are not human capital. 

That’s not to say I am against certification programs within K-12 schools. My daughter had the opportunity to become a certified nurse’s aide through our local school district. I also think to offer dual high school-college credit is a great idea and helps students avoid accumulating massive student debt. I support vocational education.

I am not opposed to those things if that is what the student and the family want. That isn’t what is going on. Kids are not receiving a well-rounded education as a result of this push for workforce development. They are being shortchanged.

Those of who are concerned about this get the blame apparently because the savior of workforce development, the Common Core State Standards, have been a failure. Why? Because we opposed them and so they were adopted unevenly. Also, the NAEP assessment questions may not line up to the standards (the ACT either).

Cantor writes:

Political resistance and bureaucratic obstacles resulted in uneven adoption of the standards among states. Researcher Tom Loveless at the Brookings Institution found small gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in states that more fully implemented the standards. He has also reported on the larger pattern of stagnation on the national exam.

Several factors, including questions of how well NAEP items lined up with the standards, made it impossible to conclude that they had a causal effect on outcomes, however.

In Arizona, where the state education chief led a successful effort to repeal the standards, local industry played a countervailing role, said Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive of the state’s Chamber of Commerce foundation and a former state superintendent.

“The biggest contribution business makes is to encourage the jump” to better standards and tests, she said. “They’re saying, ‘We need to employ kids with these sets of skills, and you’re not helping them get them.’”

They can’t possibly admit there was no data that backed these standards up; they did not emulate success in states and countries doing well in math and literacy (to this day I’m still not sure what countries Common Core used as a benchmark). 

They can’t possibly look in the mirror and admit that their grand experiment, and that is what this was, an experiment, went bust and they are the ones to blame. 

Top down reforms never work.