In 1981 Barbara Mandrell released the song “I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool.” In the song, Mandrell reflected on the things she did that were country before others found them to be “cool” and began to mimic those same things. In many ways, Career and Technical Education teachers could make the same proclamation about Common Core: “We were Common Core, when Common Core wasn’t cool.”
In many aspects, CTE teachers have already been doing the Common Core Standards even before they were created. Students read technical manuals, wrote essays, and thought critically about their projects. This has made the implementation of the Common Core State Standards into CTE courses painless. In fact, Common Core has left many of my colleagues asking, “How is this different from what we have been doing?”
The Common Core State Standards are very similar to what we have been doing for years in CTE programs. However, with that being said, the Common Core State Standards force students to go deeper than previously required. Now, rather than simply reading a manual and writing about what they have read, my students read articles and form arguments based on the evidence they find in the text.
In my Green Technology class, I asked my students to write an argumentative essay about government subsidies for renewable energies. One article I presented to them argued in favor of government subsidies, while another argued that subsidies should be ended. After reading the articles, my students formed their arguments and wrote evidence-based essays.
At first, the process was slow and tedious; however, with guidance and prompting, my students began to construct thorough essays that outlined arguments that were supported with evidence. In fact, my students not only used the article that supported their positions, they also began to use the counter article to support their arguments as well. They were going deeper! After a few revisions, my students had well-developed essays that established their positions and were supported with evidence.
Today’s workplace demands that employees be able to evaluate, process, and communicate information. The skills my students honed during the essay exercise will be critical for their future career success. Industry relies on the ability of employees to make recommendations for future equipment purchases, communicate information to customers, and interpret data used to guide future production. With Common Core, these skills will become second nature to students.
Although CTE programs have been doing many of the finer points of Common Core for years, room for improvement remains. The standards do not replace what CTE teachers do, but they do force students to go deeper than before, and they encourage them to think more critically about their writing. I am looking forward to what the Common Core State Standards can bring to my classroom as I implement them into my lessons, and I truly believe that I will see tremendous growth in my students as a result. And, remember, CTE teachers can one day proudly hold their heads high and say “We were Common Core, when Common Core wasn’t cool.”