By Margaret Morgan, Assistant Dean for the School of Education
In the first of our series on the Common Core, I discussed what the Core is and what it is not. To recap: the Common Core is a set of standards. It is not a curriculum, it is not a prescriptive teaching methodology, and it does not dictate how the standards should be implemented. There's certainly a lot of controversy and backlash from many concerning the Common Core but there is one group of people that seem to be embracing the Core and who have advocated for implementation of a common set of standards: the US military.
There are nearly 2 million military children in the United States and these children move at three times the rate of their civilian counterparts. Most military children will attend between six and nine schools before they graduate from high school which means a new school every 18 to 24 months. These relocations can and do occur in the middle of the school year which presents greater challenges and difficulties for military children. These children can find themselves at a distinct disadvantage academically. Gaps or differences in curricular frameworks can leave military children behind and/or ahead—sometimes both!
For example, imagine being a student that moves during the middle of your 10th grade year. You arrive on your first day, ready and eager to learn. Class begins, the teacher provides you with a syllabus and outline, and you realize that the material to be covered is the same material you've already covered at your previous school. You now realize that you've missed out on an entire semester of information. Now, you are under extreme pressure to learn that material, on your own, so you can pass the final exam. Your final grade is already in jeopardy and you have yet to begin! This is not a unique or rare occurrence in the life of a military child. Differing state standards also contribute to students not meeting individual state requirements to graduate on time. A common set of standards across all states can provide consistency for these children and ensure that wherever they go; the standard remains the same.
Some argue that the Core standards will lead to a better-educated population. Is this true? That is an argument for another day and a complex one at best. As each state is implementing the standards differently; it may be difficult to ascertain whether the standards or the implementation is responsible for success or failure. However, we do know that at present, 30% of high school students cannot pass the U.S. military entrance exam (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam) which aims to measure basic reading and mathematical skills. Recruiting soldiers who can meet minimum requirements is critical to ensure a vital national security force. Thus, the US military is interested in initiatives that aim to improve school quality and a better educated populous.
We do not yet know the efficacy of the Common Core as related to military children or on the populous in general. However, what we do know is that military children are already at a distinct disadvantage because of their highly-mobile status. The Common Core might not be the answer, but for military families, there is comfort in knowing that at the least there may be some consistency in the education of their children as opposed to the patchwork quilts they have sewn for so long.
Dr. Maggie Morgan is the Assistant Dean for the School of Graduate Education. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author(s) and are not attributable to Purdue Global.