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Common Core State Standards Initiative

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education program enacted in the United States that details what each student should know in mathematics and English language arts at the end of each grade. It has been enacted for grades K-12. It was developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers the National Governors Association. The goal is to create consistent education standards in the United States in addition to preparing to enter courses at a university level or get a job after high school.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative started to become developed in 2009 by a group of educators. Included in this team were David Coleman and William McCallum from the University of Arizona, as well as Phil Daro, Jason Zimba, and Susan Pimentel. After it was announced, 45 states became part of the initiative with the states of Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, and Virginia opting out of the Common Core Standards. Minnesota has not adopted the Mathematics standards, but has been using the English Language Arts standards.

Common Core State Standards Initiative

The goal of the English Language Arts Standards is to ensure that each student is career and college ready at the end of high school. It uses common components of the standards of the English language, such as speaking, writing, reading, language, listening, and media and technology. As the students progress through the grades, the complexity of each component increases and builds on each other.

The Mathematics Standard was created to increase children’s understanding and coherence of math. This was in response to the criticism that American students often know very little math. Four domains that are taught in grades kindergarten to fifth grade are geometry, measurement and data, number and operations in base 10, and operations and algebraic thinking. In Kindergarten, cardinality and counting are taught.

Assessment of the Common Core Standards varies by state. Some states are choosing to use the PARCC RttT Assessment Consortium while others have not formally adopted an assessment, and instead are choosing to have state testing agencies come up with an assessment. Both of these methods are choosing computer-standardized tests to assess the students.

While there has been some support for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, there have also been some criticisms. Some critics have said the Common Core Standards have had little to no effect on academic achievement within the states. Other people have criticized the federal government’s need to develop a standardized curriculum.

Supporters of the curriculum have stated that the methods taught in the Common Core are clearly superior to the past curriculum taught in the states, and that the methods set important milestones for educational achievement.

Kentucky, the first state to implement the new program, showed an increase in high school graduation rate and an increase in overall test scores. While the increases are minimal, some suggest that it will be a long road to improve the nation’s school system with the Common Core Standards.

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Taking College Courses Online

1319195813-earn-your-college-degree-by-online-educationTaking online courses for college credits is becoming a popular and easy way for many adults to continue their education. Most universities and colleges offer online courses for enrolled students now, and this makes it much easier for students who don’t live close to the university or students who work inconvenient hours to take classes. In addition to the availability of online courses, the variety of online courses is widening every year.

Online courses are similar to traditional classes in that they have similar elements. For example, many online classes feature lectures. There are assignments that the student turns in electronically. Like any class, there are exams. While certain classes are available at certain times, it is not a requirement to be present during these times and the lecture can be viewed later at your convenience.

Some online courses are available to enrolled students of a college or university. Some are available to students of a college that is primarily online, and others are available for free to anyone who would like to learn. There are some colleges and universities who offer only online classes. Ellis University, American InterContinental University-Online, Walden University, Taft University System, Northcentral University, Remington College, and Aspen University are some examples of this.

studenttyping_alam_2427337bThere are some websites online who offer free courses for anyone who would like to learn. Some websites give you access to free courses from accredited universities such as MIT, Yale, and Harvard while others offer their own material. Other websites, such as Udemy, offer a wide variety of courses to students for a one-time fee.

Just like any other method of learning, taking college classes online can have its pros and cons. One benefit of taking courses online is that it generally saves money. Typically, tuition at these universities is cheaper than traditional brick and mortar schools. In addition, students also save on parking, gas, and housing. Another benefit is the flexibility. This is a huge benefit for parents or people who work odd hours. When you take an online class, you are able to take the class when your schedule permits. Telecommuting is another benefit for many people who cannot relocate to take college classes and find it very easy to just learn from a computer. In addition, online courses generally offer flexible pacing for students. This makes taking online courses easy for people who like to go at their own pace.

There are cons to taking online courses. For example, online coursework can have limited contact with the instructor. With these classes, it is not possible ask a question in class or visit a professor during office hours. Some people find that they do not like the limited social interaction of online classes. Many students find that they benefit from the social classroom setting where they get to interact with other students. Another con is the self-discipline that it requires. Some students could find this aspect challenging, because the responsibility to take and complete and online course is entirely up to the student. Since taking online courses requires a computer and an internet connection, this might be a limitation to some who are not tech savvy or who do not have a reliable computer.

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There are also concerns about the quality of online classes. However, studies have shown that students who take online classes consistently learn and perform better than students who only take traditional college classes. The results are even better if the student mixes the two types of classes. Even though these studies regarding online classes are available, the public opinion of online classes remains relatively neutral.

Just like any other college course, what you take from the class depends on what you make of it. Some are critical of the amount of students who sign up for college classes but do not finish the work. However, for students who are willing to put forth the time and effort, taking college classes online can be a convenient way to earn a degree.

Adult and Vocational Education

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The cost of college tuition has been skyrocketing in the last few years. With most young adults attending college still opting for a traditional university experience studying the liberal arts and earning degrees in areas such as English, Philosophy, History and Music; they are graduating burdened with debt and a lack of available jobs offering salaries high enough for them to pay back their loans.

This has left an entire generation of Americans questioning the worth of higher education and without the necessary practical skills that are needed in today’s workforce. Good jobs are still plentiful in America but with the increasing complexity of modern technology, even so-called blue collar jobs require prior training.

How Vocational Training Can Adapt to the Changing Times

Vocational Education is training for a particular skill; be it the skills of a technician, the learning of a trade or even studying for a specific job in areas such as nursing and engineering. As the need for workers possessing a specialized skill set has increased in the 21st century, a vocational education offers an attractive alternative to a purely academic degree, and at a fraction of the cost.

The wide variety of fields a vocational education can prepare you for is truly staggering, ranging from agriculture to information technology and from medicine to energy conservation. For example, if you have an interest in working outdoors perhaps a career in the agricultural sciences would be a good fit for you. There are a plethora of programs at community colleges and private institutions across the United States that offer courses in horticulture and food science that can prepare you for jobs in crop consultancy, as a field representative for produce brokers and buyers, and as a food processor. Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts offers an associate’s degree in food science geared toward food science engineering and with a little modification, nutrition.

If computers and networking fascinates you, there are literally thousands of vocational programs that focus on the skills required to land an intriguing job in the ever-expanding realm of information technology. Pima Community College in Tuscon, Arizona offers courses in health information technology that prepare students for rewarding careers as a coder or a medical records and insurance technician. In addition, Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina has a range of courses and certifications in information technology including, associate’s degrees, industry certifications and diplomas for a specific specialization.

According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, information security analysts are projected to be one of the fastest growing occupations through 2022 along with a host of other jobs that can be acquired through vocational education such as occupational and physical therapy assistants, electricians, personal care and home health aides, nurse practitioners, and dental hygienists. Far from being limited to the traditional attachment to trade schools and jobs such as carpentry and plumbing, vocational programs have grown beyond manual labor to include a host of opportunities for the modern workforce.

Versatility of Adult Education

adult-education-class-1920The complexities of today’s job marketplace have increased dramatically. Very few people now work for the same company or in the same career for the majority of their working life, adding a level of insecurity and unpredictability not seen in at least 50 years. The rapidly changing landscape of employment options has caused many working adults to return to school in order to learn new skills and make themselves more marketable to prospective employers or to change careers altogether. The number of adults forced into this situation, especially since the financial crisis of 2008 has been unprecedented. A large amount chose to look at the diverse possibilities open to them through vocational and adult education.

Adults tend to be the most practical segment of learners in society, meaning that they are usually motivated to learn new skills for the most pragmatic of reasons like obtaining a higher salary or to just seek new employment opportunities. Therefore, adult education classes tend to be conducted differently from classes for their 18 – 22 year old counterparts.

In general, adult education courses are structured around the schedules of the students with most classes being offered in the evenings and online. Adults even have the option of studying on the weekends.
Adult education brings a more varied approach to classroom learning and can usually involve in-depth discussion regarding topics relevant to the skills the adults are studying. For example, a class for aspiring nurse practitioners may involve debates on the proper way to practice medicine within the framework of the law surrounding the practice. With the highly differing life experiences adult students can bring to the table, this often makes for an informed and lively classroom dialogue.

As such, the societal stigma that many adults still sense upon announcing that they are returning to school will soon be a thing of the past. If current employment trends continue, the majority of young adults currently in their 30’s can look forward to continued education and changing of careers throughout their working lives.

GED Testing – Good Enough Diploma or An Opportunity To Be Seized?

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For younger learners that may have struggled in high school due to conditions at home or families that immigrated to the United States before a member could earn an equivalent high school diploma, the General Education Development Test, or more commonly known as the GED, offers a path to showcase competency in the subjects taught in high school that is vital nowadays for anyone entering the workforce. Successful completion of the GED allows one to confidently apply for job vacancies and even to enter community college vocational education programs that prepare students for the real world.

Although much maligned in popular culture, even often referred to as the “Good Enough Diploma,” the GED test is anything but good enough, covering an array of subjects like history, geography, economics, government, the sciences, mathematics and even the language arts like poetry and literature. Passing GED test-takers have demonstrated proficiency in writing well-organized sentences and a high-aptitude for the skills necessary in the present day world of employment.

Although not traditionally thought of as a path towards achieving the American Dream, vocational education, adult education and the GED Test provide an avenue to employability and career success that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find in today’s modern world. The 21st century is likely to see even more drastic changes to how education is viewed and delivered but these will remain potent sources of learning for a progressively diversified and specialized working-age population.