New Jersey joined the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in December 2008, and the timing couldn’t have aligned better with the state’s required five-year standards review.
On February 6th, New Jersey Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy announced revisions and the proposed infusion of the P21 framework into the state’s Core Curriculum Content Standards. According to a New Jersey Department of Education news release, “the revised standards are designed to infuse real-world skills into the state’s existing curriculum models in the nine content areas – Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, Technological Literacy, Visual and Performing Arts, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, Career Education and Consumer, Family and Life Skills.”
Commissioner Davy says that “all New Jersey children deserve the opportunity to enter the workforce or college already equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive.” Agreed. But is adding new standards on “life and career skills and personal financial literacy” the best way to go about attaining college readiness for all students?
Standards should serve as a guide to what content needs to be taught, not how it is taught. A rich comprehensive curriculum taught via engaging, thought-provoking lessons is the best way to develop the skills students need to be successful in post-secondary education and in life. With the narrowing of the curriculum, meaningful learning in science, social studies, foreign languages, the arts, etc is well on its way to becoming a luxury or solely an after-school program. Why? Because of the misguided assumption that simply teaching more math and reading-and teaching these subjects purely as skills–will improve student achievement. Many states aren’t getting the results they want on NCLB assessments, so they have latched onto the 21st century skills fad, instead of focusing on content.
Not all of what New Jersey proposes is bad. The new math standards will include best practices from other states and countries where student performance is high. Common Core agrees that much can be learned from looking at the high standards set by other countries. Check out New Jersey’s proposed standards yourself, and let us know what you think.