Common Core Is Not The Answer

Link to the original article at Seacoast Online

The hazy days of summer are behind us, but the hazy days inside our school classrooms are just beginning thanks to Common Core.

The hazy days of summer are behind us, but the hazy days inside our school classrooms are just beginning thanks to Common Core.

Common Core is just the latest failed educational experiment to come along, following Race to the Top, No Child left Behind, Goals 2000: Educate America Act, and Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to name a few. All failed because they ignored the needs of the children, eliminated valuable input from parents and teachers, and placed the fate of local education in the hands of far-off, detached bureaucrats. In the process, we have wasted trillions of dollars and hurt our students, while doing nothing to improve education.

Part of the issue with Common Core, as with the other failed programs, is the misconceptions used to try to support and promote its false virtues:

Other nations have standards. Advocates point to other nations with established national standards, who also happen to have high-performing students, as a reason to support Common Core. The cause and effect are not one and the same. Advocates ignore the fact that many of these nations cherry pick statistics used to gauge performance (often eliminating poor-performing students from the equation altogether), while failing to mention that nations with poorer-performing educational systems also have national standards. This is a consistent theme from Common Core advocates.

Common Core is based on rigorous standards. First, it is hard to quantify the definition of “rigorous.” The definition for rigorous standards is subjective. The Common Core authors started by judging the old standards as insufficiently rigorous yet provide no quantitative data to support their findings.

The purported rigorous standards related to Common Core are based on evaluators from the ardently pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The institute, which has a vested monetary interest in Common Core, has stated its standards were better than three-quarters of existing state standards. Based on what? Additionally, what about the other states? The fact is, Common Core standards were proven less superior to those established in at least two states, Massachusetts and California. By accepting Common Core standards, Massachusetts would be embracing inferior standards. It is not subjective to say this is heading in the wrong direction.

Common Core meets international benchmarks. No, it does not, and really is that what we should be striving for? Common Core did nothing more than “cut and paste” a series of standards, usually without any real understanding of the impact the standards might have. Once again, there was no data comparison to validate that the international “benchmarks” were even any good. Common Core proponents would like us to believe they based the standards on countries that performed well on performance testing. As mentioned, many nations cherry pick performance data, and experts do not even think the Common Core authors selected standards that are any good when we compare them to real, properly defined benchmarks.

The most powerful repudiation of this falsehood comes from mathematics professor Marina Ratner of the University of California, who recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills (http://on.wsj.com/1v9yFxn).”

College and career-ready graduates. Most people will tell you they measure the success of a K-12 education program based on how well it prepares students for college and a career. Educational experts have pointed out that by dropping or gutting key math programs, such as geometry, advanced algebra, pre-calculus and calculus, Common Core is making students less prepared for advanced math courses they will face in college and will need in many emerging technology-related careers. Common Core proponents often reply to this criticism by stating Common Core standards are the “floor, not the ceiling.” This is hardly a ringing endorsement, nor should any of us feel any degree of confidence that we are doing what is best for our students.

Leading educational expert Sandra Stotsky, who co-authored the report “Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students” (http://bit.ly/1txgVut), points out that the math standards are substandard and fail students at every level. Stotsky did not come to this assessment uninformed, but as a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee. The CCVC was charged with reviewing drafts of the Common Core standards. Stotsky refused to sign off on the academic quality of the final version of Common Core. Stotsky is now one of the leading opponents of Common Core, and a frequent visitor to New Hampshire.

Common Core does not affect local control. This is an outright lie. Common Core advocates want us to believe that by accepting its standards (and the funding that goes along with the standards), we can still maintain local control over the K-12 curriculum. When Manchester requested to “opt out” of Common Core testing, its request was denied and school funding was threatened. Likewise, when some on the Nashua Board of Education suggested a delay in implementing Common Core testing, they were threatened with the withdrawal of funding. These stories have been repeated across the country. Collusion and threats are used against school districts that even suggest a delay in implementing Common Core.

As an adult educator, I understand the need for a good education and the strength of a solid curriculum. Common Core, like its predecessors, fails our students. The incessant need by some to embrace federal standards, while ignoring the strength of local control, has delivered yet another false promise. It is time we work to improve our educational system, but we do not accomplish this by using our children as lab rats, running the maze of another theoretical experiment. Common Core is a bloated, ill-defined federal program, and is not the answer.

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