How Can College and Career Readiness Not Include Programming?

Standards are important. Along those lines, standards-based lesson plan is important. Standards are an agreement about what we, as a society, think that our children should be learning over the course of their education. In addition, I think standards are helpful. They serve as a guideline and the foundation on which to build a solid curriculum.

Granted, all of that above assumes that you’re using educational standards in some kind of even remotely sane manner. More often than not, standards are an excuse to throw out all your textbooks and by brand-new ones.

My wife found herself in an interesting predicament last year. She was asked by her administration to make sure that her math lessons aligned to the new Common Core Standards and clearly document their alignment their lesson plans. That seems reasonable, right? The problem was that she didn’t write those lessons and had no control over whether or not they met the Common Core Standards. They were part of the Everyday Math curriculum that she was mandated to use. The result was that she had to find arbitrary and capricious connections to the new standards to appease her bosses because the textbook publishers had not yet done so. She faced a bad evaluation if she failed to do so.

This is similar to how I feel about the whole college and career readiness shtick. Schools—and therefore, teachers—are assessed on how well they prepare their students for college and the careers of the 21st-century. At the same time, ask any teacher why they don’t embark on more ambitious projects with her students and the first thing that they will tell you is because they have to prepare their kids for the high-stakes state tests. Furthermore, the common core standards—despite their pride—pay only lip service to technology and education.

I don’t think that everyone should be a programmer. But considering Apple and the App Store have created a billion-dollar economy in the midst of an economic recession and the fact that most technology companies are clamoring for talented software engineers, wouldn’t it make sense to include basic programming and web design courses alongside chemistry, history, geometry, and other academic subjects?

The Common Core Standards just ask that technology be included in the curriculum and make no suggestions on what that would look like—especially what it would look like to compare students for the careers of the modern economy. Frankly, it’s irresponsible. How do we have a new set of standards that completely ignore the prospect of at least introducing students to such an in demand field?

Instead, we stymie the integration of technology into education. We disallow students to bring in laptops and handheld devices to aid in their learning despite using them ourselves on a regular basis. The necessity to understand how to complete advanced tasks and solve hard problems using a computer is weaseling his way into every field—not just technology—and it’s important that we be there to help our students build that understanding.

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