Let's Talk Standards

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Rebecca Holcombe is Vermont’s Secretary of Education. She was a social studies and science teacher, and the Principal at the Fairlee School (now part of the Rivendell Interstate School District). Rebecca was the Director of Dartmouth College's Teacher Education Program, where she worked with pre-service teachers and taught a course on Education Politics and Policy.

I am asked often why do we have new standards? It is not that teachers and schools are not doing a good job, but rather that the world our children are entering has changed in fundamental ways, and thus what students need to learn has changed. The jobs that compensate will increasingly be jobs that depend on our children’s ability to solve non-routine problems and make sense of new information. When you go to many stores now or buy your gas, you can check out on a machine. In an airport, you get your boarding pass from a kiosk. There are prototype dairies where machines with sensors milk cows, tend them and monitor their well-being, while a "farmer" manages the processes remotely on a computer. Many of the jobs our children used to do are now done by machines, so we need to educate our children to do the work that is uniquely human.

The unique power of our children’s minds is in their flexibility and ability to learn, and this is what we need to develop. For example, our students need to be able to comprehend complicated information, reason from evidence, and be able to solve complex and non-routine problems. One goal of the Common Core is to ensure that our students have opportunities to develop the kinds of analytical reasoning and problem solving skills they need to be able to thrive in the future and do the jobs computers cannot do.

We expect our teachers to do what good teachers have always done: review the standards, understand the purpose behind some of the changes implied by the standards, and assess how well their own teaching and curriculum are aligned with the purpose of the Common Core. We also expect teachers to share their work and the work of their students with other teachers, to look for evidence of their effectiveness in student work, and to make professional decisions about how to improve their teaching and better support and challenge their students towards ambitious intellectual and work goals.

Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014