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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thank goodness for Smart Core

I don't hear Smart Core -- the state's high school graduation requirements -- being talked about as much as they were during the years I worked at the Arkansas Department of Education. I hope that's because everyone accepts the value of that curriculum whether students plan to immediately enter college or instead find a job.

Even just five years ago, though, it was difficult to convince some people that everyone really benefits from Smart Core. The story that most convinced me was a young man we interviewed who hadn't been encouraged to take challenging courses in high school, found work after leaving 12th grade and realized 10 year later that to have the kind of job that paid the level of income he needed to support his family meant he needed some sort of degree.  He got one, but wished he had done so earlier when it would have been easier.

My thought was why not prepare all students to be ready for higher education (we know the majority of jobs now require it) and let them decide to opt out of college on their own after they finish high school?

This all comes to mind because I'm on a college-visiting trip with my son.  At the first out-of-state public university we visited, I perked up (a little nervously) when the admissions staff started listing the core set of classes students must have on their transcripts to be admitted.

I was thrilled when they practically sang the old Smart Core 3-4-3-4 jingle -- three sciences, four maths, three social studies and four Englishes.  (Of course, this university also required two years of foreign language. Luckily many Arkansas high schools -- including my son's -- require that as well, even though Smart Core doesn't.)

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