Test results are in and the Common Core of U.S. education is failing. Schools which abandoned the state-mandated curriculum have seen their students’ academic skills improve by leaps and bounds.
Older folks and those without children or grandchildren may not know much about the Common Core system that was imposed on Americans in 2010. The idea began two years earlier.
In 2008, former Democratic Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano was the 2006-2007 chair of the National Governors Association (NGA). In that role, the future Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama wrote a customary initiative for the year which had “a strong focus on improving math and science education, as well as the workforce.”
Napolitano organized a task force to study how to keep future employees in the United States competitive in the increasingly-outsourced international job arena, teaming with eager, bright, and well-educated rivals from other countries, notably India.
A group of “commissioners of education, governors, corporate chief executive officers and recognized experts in higher education” produced their recommendations in December 2008 in a report which became the foundation for what grew into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
CCSS also has ties to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), passed by Congress in 2001 under President George W. Bush. All states had to develop ways to determine that students were learning basic skills like English and mathematics. This new system “supported standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals could improve individual outcomes in education.”
The clincher was that the states would not get any federal school funding if students at certain grade levels were not assessed per the new Act. However, states could decide which standards and tests to use. This division of educative accountability led to an unintended consequence. The way to ensure that no child would fail in school – and be left behind – was to dumb down the tests. Easy!
Education expert Rick Hess, who directs education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, explained how dumbing down worked under the NCLB:
“If you had hard tests or hard standards you made your schools look bad. So there was a real, kind of perverse incentive baked into NCLB.”
Naturally, most states got on board with NCLB for financial reasons rather than the propaganda-pushed sentimental message that won the hearts and minds of most Americans: “Every child’s education counts.” Of course, it does.
Currently, 45 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted CCSS. The state-sponsored educational standards program justified changing the underpinnings of the American classroom by assuring the general public that the experts knew best and wanted more students to earn high school diplomas:
“State school chiefs and governors recognized the value of consistent, real-world learning goals and launched this effort to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life.”
CCSS claims it has helped boost life success for young Americans since it gained a national following:
“The development of the Common Core State Standards is a success story of meaningful, state-led change to help all students succeed.”
But is this true? Is the Common Core a success? Or is it really rotten?
In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Education published the Nation’s Report Card. (Were you aware that we even had one?) Among the conclusions was this:
“Standardized reading and math tests taken every two years by 4th and 8th-grade students” remained “essentially unchanged from 2015 for both grades (with the exception of a 2-point improvement in 8th-grade reading).”
But here is the real shocker, from the same report on the 2017 national report card:
“National average scores have now remained steady for more than a decade.”
Steady means no improvement. Furthermore, instead of narrowing the achievement gap, CCSS scores show that the high scores have gotten higher while the low scores have gotten lower, widening the achievement gap.
Before CCSS, between 2003 to 2011, nearly every state reported improved math scores.
But from 2013 to 2017, “only five jurisdictions logged improvements in 4th-grade math, and just three in 8th-grade math” under CCSS.
When Mason Classical Academy, a charter school in Naples, Florida, abandoned the Common Core program and returned to traditional teaching methods, student academic achievement “soared to the number one position in the State’s top schools list.”
Teachers at the Naples school realized that CCSS “deliberately dumbs down children, creating unnecessary and complicated techniques for working out relatively simple problems.”
One huge problem with CCSS is that it waited to teach kids phonics (how to sound out words by pronouncing individual letters and letter combinations) until after kindergarten students were forced to memorize whole words.
This is bass-ackwards and any educator worth their salt knows it. CCSS sets students up for academic failure because “it is so strongly focused on test results and teachers are so worried about losing their jobs if their students don’t perform that kids are forced into busywork, missing out on the valuable opportunity to develop social skills and boost their well-being through recess outdoors.”
Adding insult to injury, the Common Core system “also stifles creativity and stresses children out, which can adversely affect their emotional and physical health.”
Consider the second-grade homework math problem that went viral after the teacher marked it wrong, noting that the solution was not “friendly” – remember, we’re talking about mathematics here:
“When asked to solve 530-270, the student arrives at the right answer by subtracting the way most of us were taught in school. Although the student got the right answer, his teacher wanted him to solve it by adding 30 to both numbers so the problem would then be 560-300.”
The Common Core State Standards of education have flunked out. It’s time to leave them behind. And good riddance to bad rubbish.