Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Common Core Standards & the Missing Executive Function Skills Link to Success


I have read the Common Core Standards found on the website CoreStandards.Org, and would like to offer some constructive feedback to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Dear Sir and United States Secretary of Education Mr. Arne Duncan,

How are you Sir? I hope you and your family were able to get a modicum of rest and relaxation over the holidays. My family and I did, but now it is back to work time. Dear Secretary, I have reviewed the Common Core Standards by which you are putting your full backing at this present moment. I know full well that you are a busy man, so I do appreciate the time, if any, that you may have set aside to reading my note to you regarding the current existent format of benchmark parameters for mathematics, reading and writing.

Like a potter that shapes the clay, I say that we don't have to do away with the clay but perhaps add some water and impress some key contours into the clay.  



Their is a major benchmark which can guarantee success in your current endeavors.  I did not see it listed on the official Common Core Standards site. I lay it out for you and would be happy to work behind the scenes with your staff as a help in your endeavor to steer this educational ship to success, as it pertains to being of assistance with respect to this major benchmark I am laying out. 

You need to clearly state that the development of executive function skills within the classroom (and home) needs to be used to manage the start to finish implementation of these common core standards. Executive function skills, as you may be well aware of, are a host of skills that come together to help us manage, direct, and orchestrate in a goal-directed manner.  Without an awareness and understanding of this management framework that is valued by Educators and School Administrators alike, I don't see how success can be attained. Teaching actual substantive educational skills cannot take root unless it is conjoined to an effective self-management system. These "EF" skills compliment the substance of the Common Core Standards expressed on the official website. These  'real-world' skills  are so important that future professionals will, to a great degree, sink or swim according to their understanding, and effective application of them in their lives. 

For starters, the vocabulary word identification of executive function skills by students, Teachers, and School Administrators coupled with its overall use as an addendum tool & strategy box would lead these children to be better at knowing how to consistently self-manage themselves across their lifetime. Although it is easy to assume that these skills will be learned by default, I think it is safer to assume that if that were the case, then their would be no need to usher in a new educational system of benchmarks. Instead, getting pro-active on imparting the actual word identification of these frontal lobe skills, as well as training kids to use these within the context of their academic short and long term tasks would in my professional estimation, catapult our students to become exceptional once again as a whole and be very competitive internationally.

Consider some of the executive function skills:

Focus
Sustaining Attention
Emotional Control
Response Inhibition 
Foresight
Sequencing
Pacing
Short and long term planning ahead
metacognition
Behavior Modulation
Mental Flexibility

I don't know what aspiring professional can bank on consistent, on-the-job success without appropriately toned executive function skills. These are just a few of the skills that would come to the aid of the continuance of successful implementation across time. I believe that not stating these to Educators, School Administrators and Parents alike on the Common Core website, as well as via official action from your office would leave students in a 'half-way' status as we try to get them ready to compete on a global level.  Your full-public and official backing of this important self-management benchmark would strengthen the hull of your current endeavors and guaranteeing safer passage of the Common Core Standards towards successful implementation.

A great illustration of how executive function skills are fundamentally important is shown in academic and professional writing.   Writing is a process involving thought organization, short and long term planning, sequencing, time management, prioritization, self-monitoring, mental flexibility, and even emotional (self) control to list a few. Time and time again I come across kids (and adults) who less and less know how to write an essay, and for that matter, organize their thoughts in a successful manner.

Math involves sequencing, prioritization, foresight, and the ability to focus and sustain attention also. What executive function skills development does is bring in a bigger picture of who the student is that helps fine-tune their ability to do the work, and do it well, aside from the actual know-how on how to solve a math problem. Leaving this up to the teachers, without making it part of the standards would be like a ship that has holes in its sails. I just don't see how you will succeed without putting the weight of your office behind this added initiative.

As an added benefit, the development of these executive function skills goes hand in hand with right and left hemispheric development. They are married to each other. Getting the public school system 'up to speed' with this will assure victory from year to year.  
But how do you carry something like this out? How can this be easily impressed upon the army of Educators, school staff, administrators and related school professionals? Their are literally thousands and thousands of school professionals.
Would it require massive amounts of money and training? Would it be touted as an admission of failure in the current set-up of the Common Core? I dare say no. We do not have to act as if we have painted ourselves into a corner. At the end of the day, we all want our kids to be success stories. Doing what is right needs to take the priority over how we feel others (media) may view us.  I bet that you would  be surprised by the response to you putting your weight behind this addition to the standards. In terms of paying for something like this, forget the millions. I am no Superman, but I know how to work hand-in-hand with professionals and I could easily train Educator groups per state to take this on, who in turn would train others. I would go to them. I would move quickly. Where their is a will, their is a way. Already, their is wide understanding and acceptance that executive function skills (and hemispheric strengthening) provides the foundation to students doing exceedingly well in their academic and post-academic life as professionals.  Those who don't have these skills toned, do not do well in their professions, and they slow work momentum.

As a small-business owner, I am sensitive to the need of streamlining operations that cuts on 'overhead,' but still delivers on results.  My eleven years as a Special Educator have helped me polish what works, what doesn't, what's practical, and what is easy to integrate. Furthermore, I have worked across the country including Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, and Connecticut, and have interacted and assessed to a high degree the current state of our national public school systems. EF skill development is grossly lacking. It is addressed only indirectly, and by default.

Mr. Secretary, put me to the test. Hear me out. Have one of your advisors contact me, if politics don't allow for a direct communication early on. My agenda is to help my fellow Americans, nothing more, nothing less.

I do hope I have been able to communicate my sincerity and genuine desire to help the 'team.'

All my best,

Coach Bill

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