By Jon Wray, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Wray is the instructional facilitator for secondary mathematics curricular programs in the Howard County (Maryland) Public School System and is an elected member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics board of directors. He is co-founder of the Core Challenge, a program to support teacher collaboration and execution of the Common Core Standards in math.
(CNN) – The United States’ worldwide ranking in mathematics education is a common lament among teachers, parents, students, politicians and just about anybody else who has a stake in our nation’s future. The United States recently ranked 25th out of 34 developing countries in mathematics falling behind countries such as Japan, Germany and France. Ask a hundred people the cause of this situation and you’ll get a hundred different answers. One reason in particular, however, is that we have hundreds – if not thousands - of different ways of teaching our students, and different ideas of what they ought to be taught.
As an educator, I would love to tell you that I have the magic formula to teach every single student to succeed. While I don’t, I do believe a key step is for all educational stakeholders to approach our mathematics challenges in a more collaborative manner.
One problem is that each state in our country has developed its own criteria for measuring student success. Imagine being a student or teacher who has to move across the country or find a new teaching job, only to be told that, by their new school’s standards, their approach to math or reading is suddenly wrong – or even more likely, that a student’s “A” performance at his last school now only merits a “C.”
I may have a brilliant system for teaching mathematics to primary school students in my home state of Maryland, but if I try to apply it to kids in Pennsylvania, suddenly I’m trying to prepare and grade students under different standards.
By Adam Frankel, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Adam Frankel, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, is executive director of Digital Promise, a national initiative chartered by Congress to advance innovation in education.
At a time when the country is focused on the “fiscal cliff” that will come when huge tax increases and spending cuts kick in at the end of the year, America is also heading toward a “classroom cliff” in our nation’s schools.
In 2014 and 2015, the first tests will be administered to assess how students are measuring up to the Common Core State Standards – new college and career-ready standards that have been adopted by 45 states and three territories. The result of those tests, many educators believe, will be a disaster.
First, a little background: Historically, one of the biggest barriers to achievement in our schools has been a patchwork of state standards, some much higher than others. For example, states have had different standards for algebra, even though algebra is the same everywhere. That makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of where our students stand or make sure they are getting the best possible education.
The Common Core State Standards, known as “the Common Core,” were developed to change that status quo. The Common Core – a bottom-up, states-driven approach to establishing better, clearer standards – is one of the most significant steps we’ve taken to regain the global lead in education. For the first time, a majority of states have come together to develop and adopt common standards for math and English language arts, putting America on the path to greater educational achievement.
By Tim Magner, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Tim Magner is the executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a national organization that advocates for 21st-century readiness for every student. He has had an extensive career in education, serving most recently as the vice president of Keystone for KC Distance Learning (KCDL) as well as the director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education.
(CNN) – Whether it’s technology, the global economy or the changing nature of work itself, we are tasked with preparing our children for success in college, career and citizenship in a world that looks very different from the one we grew up in. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with P21’s members, partners and leadership states to help educators embed key 21st-century skills – like the four Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking – into the educational experiences of all children.
Our children need these 21st-century skills not simply because employers are looking for them (they are), or because they are essential for success in college (they are), or because other nations are also recognizing this skills gap (they are), but because we want our children to not just survive in this new millennium, but to truly thrive.
21st-century readiness – having the knowledge and skills to pursue further education, compete in the global economy and contribute to society – demands much more of all of our students, and our education system must change to meet these demands. Recognizing this fundamental shift, the ongoing Common Core State Standards initiatives are embedding these skills into the new standards frameworks.