Critical thinking can be tested, can it be taught?
August 9, 2014
As a senior at Nevada Union High School, I feel that Common Core reform is a good step in the right direction towards education reform, but any attempt to standardize learning in a bureaucratic setting will have its challenges.
The attempt to create an even platform with which American students can measure themselves against international standards and thus gain a better idea of where they stand on the academic spectrum is a laudable one; however, making attempts does not necessarily mean that a goal will be achieved.
The whole Common Core standard is instituted on the assumption that every teacher and student will listen and make an effort to change.
It is too rigid to even consider that some educators will not be open to implementing a new style of teaching.
It is also an inherent flaw in all controlled widespread education efforts to try and instill a specific mode of thinking into the students.
The only way to ensure that things are going to be taught in the specific manner that reformers want is if the reformers teach it themselves or an enormous monitoring system is created.
As an AP (Advanced Placement) student, Common Core has affected me because AP tests concern themselves more with critical thinking and less with rote memorization.
College Board has responded to the new air of education reform and has revamped several of its AP tests. The new tests are more interested in assessing a student's ability to look at data and synthesize it.
For example, I took the revamped AP chemistry exam this year and found that it focused more heavily on theoretical labs than mechanical number-crunching. The test truly tests critical thinking and was one of the more challenging exams that I have ever taken.
I think these new exams that encourage critical thinking are, in fact, a step in the right direction. However, there remains a major flaw: although it can be tested, can it be taught?
This effort is definitely commendable, and I believe that the tests that are coming out are truly testing aptitude. Nevertheless, the fact still stands that, without a flexible approach, many students will not be taught how to critically think.
Too often, a teacher thinks it only takes a few worksheets to teach someone how to critically analyze a problem. It takes more to teach students to come up with an educated and disinterested qualification of the subject.
Despite the shortcomings, I applaud any attempt to implement new standards that are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit-bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.
Benjamin Beltran is a Nevada Union High School senior.