One of the teachers at school told me I needed to watch the TED talks with Ken Robinson, so I did. I’ve spent months pouring over test data for the high school searching for “trends” and “critical needs”–Sir Ken was just the shot in the arm I needed. Robinson observes, “The whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors.” And adds, “We educate students from the waist up and slightly to one side.” I couldn’t agree more.

While The Powers that Be are obsessed with producing spreadsheets of test scores that will guarantee results, I, and many other teachers, have been obsessing over this self-perpetuating business that “education” has become — teach to the test (based on “the standards”) so that they can score well and earn good grades that take them to the next test and the next set of grades and on and on. (Can you imagine the returns if you had been prescient enough to invest in the College Board in the ’70s–who knew?)

But the employers are still dissatisfied with the product the schools are spitting out –President Obama tells us we have 2 million tech. jobs that the graduates of American schools aren’t fit to fill. All of this racing to the top with no child left behind isn’t getting the job done, but it is leaving behind exhausted children and teachers.

Instead of Common Core Standards, what if we tried some common sense? Our graduates need to head into the “real world” being able to read well enough to draw conclusions and make decisions; write well enough to communicate clearly and persuasively; and think well enough to solve problems creatively, effectively, and with compassion. Not all kids will develop these skills at the same pace and the teachers don’t need spreadsheets to understand what the kids need to do next. They already know the projects and activities that are effective and bring out the joy of learning in their students, but those have been relegated to “Fun Fridays” or are hauled out in May/June after the state testing is done.

It’s no longer about memorizing the “right” answer–the kids can find facts with lightning speed on their cell phones. They need to learn what to do with those facts in order to contribute to the well being of their community. Isn’t that why they spend 13 years of their lives in school?