Journey of a Superintendent: C’Mon Man!

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Come on, man! Or as the NFL commentators say, as they show some of the ridiculous and absurd things that star football players do: “C’Mon man!

It is a phrase I think about when I hear all those degrading and demonizing comments about the effort to bring higher standards to our schools. You’ve heard the rhetoric: “Common Core is a ‘big government’ takeover of our schools!” “Common Core is the work of socialists.” REALLY? Common Core or not, our kids deserve an education that prepares them for college and careers. If we’re not willing to use a set of standards that were developed by business and industry leaders, working with educators under the charge of governors from across our nation, then what? C’mon man!

Each year, as I shake the hands of hundreds of high school graduates, I ask myself: “Are we sure each graduating student is ready? Are our graduates prepared to enter college, attend technical college or to be gainfully employed?” I can tell you honestly that my now twenty-something nephews needed additional education and training to get jobs in their chosen career fields. My hope for their futures is that they can earn wages that will pay the bills, feed and clothe themselves, allow them to move out on their own, and eventually to care for their own families. I am not planning to have them move in with me because the only jobs available are at wages too low for self-sufficiency!

Preparing our kids to compete for quality jobs is what the “Common Core” standards are all about. The standards set the bar for the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed in today’s global job market. The local school board determines the curriculum, or what will be taught to meet the standards. It’s not a big government take-over of education. It is business and industry demanding more.

Business leaders are demanding higher sets of skills to fill positions in their organizations. Needing a skilled workforce was the motivation that brought industry leaders to the table to develop a common set of standards, which will lead to a better-prepared workforce.  All professions are expecting employees to have higher skills in academic, technical, and employability skills. Most jobs with salary levels beyond minimum wage require some level of college or technical credential. Right now, across the nation, too many high school graduates find themselves ill-prepared for the job market. We can do something about that, if we are willing to stay focused on what our kids need for their futures.

When I hear that ridiculous rhetoric about a national takeover of education, I just have to look at my nephews or one of my students and ask, “Are you prepared for your future?” Making it personal helps me to stay focused on college and career readiness for every student. I am thankful the staff here in KCKPS are moving with urgency to do more, be relevant, take the necessary steps so our kids can succeed.

So it’s not about “Common Core,” it’s about a set of standards equal to a world class education, one that leads to self-sufficiency and a quality life. And let’s be real: It’s also about ensuring my nephews never need to ask, “Can I stay with you awhile? I can’t find a job!”

C’Mon man! It’s Up to Us!

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