The world of education often feels like a ride on a merry-go-round. We sit on our rearing steed, ready to enlighten young minds with the latest and greatest new methods and materials, and wake up one day to realize we are going around in circles. As an educator, it is impossible to stand still. We have a group of students and their parents that change every year and curriculum that is constantly being modified. If you could stand still, however, you would notice that the pendulum swings regularly and it's swinging again. We are in the middle of a standardization of curriculum in grades K-12 while the entrance to college is suddenly being revamped.
Change is motivated by dissatisfaction with the way things are and education is an area in which change is highly visible. The implementation of Common Core in 45 States points to the need for a consistent curriculum throughout the states addressing the highly mobile society we live in. By implementing the Common Core, ensuring that the same curriculum is being taught in all states participating, helps to ensure that students who move will not fall behind. Though opinions on Common Core vary, with some feeling that the curriculum is too challenging, and others feeling that it is not challenging enough, most are in agreement that the transition presents a big learning curve for parents, teachers and students. Educators are attending professional development workshops to learn new methods for implementing the curriculum, students are participating in new activities and assessments and parents are attending parent meetings, struggling to understand the changes and the impact they will have on their children's education. While the standardization of the curriculum has benefits, it is important to remember that the delivery of the instruction, can be route and routine or innovative and exciting. The teacher is still responsible for lighting the fire of learning and inspiring the student.
Meanwhile, the SAT, a long-time standard measure of achievement and potential success in college, is suddenly being revamped. The reasons are many, but it seems that College Board President and CEO David Coleman and the test developers realize that their test is not relevant to today's students and serves as a stumbling block to many students attempting to enter the world of higher education. The changes will reflect the need for today's students to research and analyze information and will reflect vocabulary a student will most likely encounter in the university setting. The math section will focus on problem-solving, algebra and data analysis among other advanced math concepts and the dreaded essay will now be optional and scored separately from the rest of the test. One of the biggest changes will be in the manner in which students can prepare for the test. In partnership with Khan Academy, online test preparation tools are being developed that will offer a free means to study and prepare for the SAT. This will help to eliminate the advantage afforded to some students who have the means to pay for expensive test preparation and tutors. As these changes are implemented, the responsibility still lies with the student, who must prepare and stay focused and motivated throughout the preparation and the SAT exam itself.
As an educator, what the swinging pendulum means to me is that ideas change, curriculum changes, educational materials change and often opinions about what is best for students changes, but the constant is the importance of inspirational teachers, students who have clear goals of what they want for their future and the vision of student success by both.