Saturday, December 14, 2013

College and career readiness - what?

Who wouldn't think college and career readiness is a good thing?  Of course students should be prepared for college and career.  But what does this mean?  And why are we talking about  college and career readiness as if they are the same things?

First, let's consider college readiness.  Is this the same thing for all colleges?  How about for all majors even at the same university?  Does making sure all students can simplify radical expressions and solve quadratic equations mean they are all ready for every college program in every college?  What about technical college?  Business college?  Do all colleges have the same criteria for admission?  How can we have one set of standards to prepare all students for college when the requirements and expectations for different universities and different programs vary so greatly?

Now think about career readiness.  It's even more mind-boggling to think about preparing students for all careers with the same set of standards.  Seems to me we're hammering a lot of square pegs into round holes. How are we preparing the photographers, the artists, the dancers, the musicians, the athletes, the carpenters, the builders, the public servants when we expect everyone to meet the same expectations geared primarily to students with strong verbal aptitude?  

Nearly everything in the common core is geared to verbal skill and reasoning.  Reading complex text, writing to text, citing evidence from text.  How about the careers that lean more to concrete, visual-spatial intelligence?  Social-emotional intelligence?  Musical intelligence?  Students are not standardized.  Why should their education be?

And another thing - why do we spend so much time identifying and quantifying student weaknesses, focusing on what they can't do?  Is there room to also find what they can do?  Can we encourage them to grow and develop other skills and knowledge besides the ones in the standards?

I'm all for preparing students for college and careers.  I just happen to think that the best way to do this is to encourage students to discover and follow their passions.  To become lifelong learners.  To be equipped as confident, competent citizens.  To take risks.  To spread their wings.  I am not sure we can do that when we use the same standards for every child.

I don't have the answers.  Just lots of questions.  But perhaps we need to have some dialogue about where we're going with our obsession with standards and high stakes testing before we lose an entire generation of children.

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