If you had had to choose your career path when you were 14, what might you have become? Would you have had the foresight and guidance to choose wisely? Would you have taken all the courses in high school to prepare you for the challenges you would face later on? The most fortunate among you may have answered “yes” to these questions, but I’m guessing that for many of you the answer is “no.”
That’s one important reason for high expectations in high school: to protect us from our 14-year-old selves.
Fortunately, the vast majority of states have adopted Common Core State Standards for what students should know and be able to do, and those standards aim to prepare all students for college and careers. Unfortunately, many of those states aren’t yet ensuring that students take high school math classes that actually cover the content in the standards.
That was the major finding of Out of Sync: Many Common Core States Have yet to Define a Common Core-worthy Diploma, a report Change the Equation and the Center for Public Education released last week.
Common Core standards assume that students will take math in each year of high school and learn substantial content typically taught in Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II classes. Twenty-two states that have adopted Common Core require neither four years of math nor any clear Algebra II content.
Some argue that most people don’t use advanced math in their jobs, so schools shouldn’t have to require it. If we took this argument to its logical extent, we could easily shrink most school curricula to the size of a McGuffey Reader. How many professionals need to understand the periodic table? The structure of a cell? The plays of Shakespeare? I could go on . . .
But that way madness lies. Young people need a broad base of learning so that they can have a choice of career paths later on. After all, our interests and circumstances change all the time. A student might decide at age 18 or 20 that she wants a career in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Or worse, she might have to learn a new career later in life should the economy change. In either case, she’d do well to have some advanced math under her belt.
None of this is to say that every student should attend a four-year college or plan to become an engineer. As a new Brookings report makes clear, two-year colleges and technical schools pave the way to high-paying jobs in the STEM fields. But those fields still require a very strong grounding in math.
By setting a high bar for all students, Common Core State Standards aim to deliver on the fundamentally American promise of equal opportunity. States have been very courageous in embracing these standards. Yet without a set of graduation requirements to match, they may still fall short of their ideals.
This post was guest-written by Claus von Zastrow the Chief Operating Officer and director of research for Change the Equation. Visit CTEQ’s blog to read what CPE Director Patte Barth had to see about this topic.