We may not know who first said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” but we certainly understand the message! Symantec, a member of Change the Equation, is doing its part to help ensure that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in elementary, middle and high schools is not the same old thing leading to the same disappointing results. Last week Symantec reaffirmed that commitment by hosting, along with Change the Equation and The California STEM Learning Network, a meeting at its offices in Mountain View for business leaders and others to engage around California’s role in both Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.
For nearly 20 years, California has received plaudits for its content frameworks in K-12 mathematics and science. Both frameworks received an “A” rating in a well-respected review of state standards with comments such as “California’s (math) standards could well serve as a model for internationally competitive national standards,” and “the California science standards are truly excellent.” Yet student performance remains disappointing. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the average math score for fourth-grade students in California is lower than the national average and 36 other states. And the average math score for California’s eighth-grade students is lower than the national average and 44 other states. The situation in science is even more dire: the average eighth-grade science score is lower than 45 other states.
But with California’s involverment in the development of Common Core Standards in Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards, there is a new opportunity to get it right: not just to have internationally benchmarked standards, but to have policies and practices in place to implement those standards so that teachers, textbooks, and tests are poised to hold student learning to high standards. High expectations are necessary, but not sufficient, to produce well-educated, capable high school graduates.
The meeting of California companies explored how business can make a difference with this new set of standards. Among the ideas discussed were ways that the business community can:
- ensure that corporate philanthropic investments and employee engagement outreach zeroes in on programs that are aligned with Common Core and Next Generation; and
- speak out in favor of state and district policies that ensure teachers are well-prepared to teach to higher expectations, textbooks and other resources are the best available, and assessments are used to identify students’ accomplishments and areas of weakness for further attention.
Following last week’s robust discussion, business leaders in California are better able to understand, support, and advocate for the implementation of rigorous standards for all students in STEM, and we look forward to Symantec’s continued leadership toward that end.
Linda Rosen is CEO at Change the Equation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning in the United States.