4 Ways to Promote Student Success in Critical Core Subjects
As President Obama noted in his farewell address, one of the big jobs of any president is to inspire students and teachers. There is no more important or enlightening way to do this than to plan ahead for the future. A recent analysis of test scores by American Institutes for Research found a disturbing finding: for the past two decades, less than 2 percent of public-school students have scored proficiently on the ACT college entrance exam. Clearly, there is no magic bullet to ensure each student excels in high school. Given the importance of improving student outcomes and the tremendous impact we can have in educating the next generation, educators in all communities need to plan and prepare for what’s next—but this shouldn’t come at the expense of recognizing the role that the core subjects—math, reading, and science—play in the school day.
In 2016, students and teachers responded to President Obama’s call to take back the nation’s education system by focusing on literacy, numeracy, and science. The good news is that almost all teachers agree that the U.S. education system is not ready for the 21st century and are concerned about the Common Core standards. The bad news is that local stakeholders have not focused on how the new standards will enable everyone—students, parents, schools, the communities they live in, and even policymakers—to succeed in preparing their students for the world of the future. Too often, parents and community members aren’t seeing the connection between education and workforce readiness. Furthermore, too many teachers and administrators have not placed core subjects like math, reading, and science in a larger picture of how they will meet the needs of schools, parents, and the economy.
There’s a familiar refrain when it comes to teaching core subjects. To quote the words of the legendary Ben Franklin, “Here we are: that is good enough for the teacher and good enough for the students.” There is much to be said for this simple motto. But ultimately, students will not reach their full potential if they do not engage in the fundamentals of literacy, numeracy, and science.
Today, when educators are striving to support critical thinking and understand the importance of understanding and engaging in evidence-based learning, they can benefit from a checklist of practices that will help them better engage students and increase student achievement in these areas.
1. Support the teaching profession.
Principals and teachers must fight to improve the conditions that exist in our schools. Eighty-seven percent of schools reported that leaders in their school district are unsatisfied with their own school’s leadership, which means many of our local school leaders are seeing not just a lack of support but actual threats to their jobs. With eight-year tenure becoming rarer, it is critically important that there be strong support for their efforts.
2. Cultivate a culture of excellence.
Core subjects such as science, math, and reading are foundational to most areas of study in the sciences, as well as a necessary foundation in all areas of technology. If students in these areas have not mastered basic skills, they will fall behind the students of tomorrow and their knowledge will be outdated before they are able to implement the technological innovations of the next generation.
3. Provide a sense of pride in teaching.
There are very few days that don’t come with the excitement of coming to school and the feeling of responsibility as a teacher. The educational system has decreased the amount of opportunities and resources that are available to teachers across the country, and that’s made it harder and harder for them to feel fulfilled. Principal development funding, like the one provided by the National Education Association, is crucial. In fact, for the NEA to provide funding that is identified as essential for professional development for nearly one million elementary school teachers nationwide is incredible.
4. Encourage students to read and engage in high-stakes reading experiences.
While the concept of high-stakes reading in the United States is relatively new, reading and literacy skills have always been central to learning success in the U.S. If we want to make a real impact, we must prioritize strong academic performance across the country through high-stakes reading experiences. While we’re making great strides towards equality, we are not yet there. This is a crucial area where national leadership must be noted and demonstrated.
As school districts seek to continue making changes to their curriculums in the public education system, parents, communities, students, teachers, and educators must look at how core subjects provide a foundation to many other important areas of school that students are expected to address and become college and career ready. Until every child is graduating prepared for the world of the future, we will not know if the next generation of students in America is able to better support the communities they