Though 46 states and Washington, D.C. are backing the creation of common math and English standards, figuring out what all high school graduates should know is a challenge, reports Politics Daily. Experts are trying to meet an end-of-July deadline.
The goal is for students to be career and college ready, meaning that they could make a C or better in first-year college classes without having to take remedial courses. Expanded groups of experts will set standards for grades K-12 by the end of December.
Federal standards efforts went awry in the past. This campaign was started by governors.
“What’s really changed is that it’s almost always now teachers who say, ‘When are we going to get over this nonsense that math in Mississippi is different?’ “from math in another state, says Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has “pledged up to $350 million to help develop tests that would measure whether students are meeting the new standards.”
ACT and College Board experts are trying to develop fewer, clearer and higher standards than in most states. They’re looking at freshman course syllabi and exit surveys to determine what students need.
“They’re really looking for what students should be able to do to truly be ready for college,” says (Chris) Minnich of the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of the groups overseeing the process along with the National Governors’ Association and a Washington-based group called Achieve. “It means taking out some of the things that aren’t really important, including, he says, “whether or not kids should read Shakespeare. Most of the studies say Shakespeare is not critical.”
We’re going to dump Shakespeare? Lynne Munson of Common Core at the eagerness to “throw out possibly the brightest star of our literary heritage and replace it with … well, we don’t yet know.”
Of course, in a few years the loss will hardly be noticed, as someone wise once pointed out: “He that is robb’d, not wanting what is stolen, / Let him not know ‘t, and he’s not robb’d at all.” (Othello, Act III, scene 3)
Massachusetts’ standards are the best we’ve got, Munson argues. If common standards aren’t that rigorous, why bother?
Gadfly’s Mike Petrilli wants a broad liberal arts curriculum that goes beyond “the utilitarian and narrow drive toward college and work readiness,” which has been embraced by Democrats and Republicans.
While the right celebrates anti-intellectualism, “the left remains uncomfortable saying that there is a body of knowledge that all young people need to master in order to be prepared for life in our democracy.”
Before you know it, Shakespeare’s as dead as a royal Dane in the last act of Hamlet. History, being unessential for college or work, is history.