The ‘common core’ is the topic of a lot of debate today, as 45 states have adopted these standards for implementation in their schools. Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Minnesota, and Nebraska have not adopted the standards yet, and of interesting note, several states are looking to pull back from the common core. So let’s start by taking a look at exactly what the common core is.
The Common Core state standards initiative is a nationwide effort to provide a common set of standards for grades K-12 in English, Language Arts and Math. This initiative has attempted to provide a clear and consistent collection of standards that all states in the United States have the option of adopting in place of their current learning objectives.
What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative?
According to the common core website, the standards were built “on the excellent foundation of standards states have laid” and subsequently become the “first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education.”
The assumption here is that the common core standards are the first step towards this high-quality education, and not the individual states’ standards. This also assumes that the common core standards are more effective than any individual state at ensuring a high-quality education for students.
The standards themselves are simply comprehensive lists of knowledge (facts) and skills that children should have mastered at various grades.
The idea is that upon the complete adoption of the standards, students all across the country will be learning the same thing at the same time. This will prevent the ‘achievement gap’ between states. For example, according to a report from the American Institutes for research, there is as much as a four year gap in knowledge between Massachusetts and Tennessee students who are in 8th grade. According to the Common Core website, these standards are “designed to be robust and relevant to the real world” and will prepare American students for the future, putting our communities in the best position “to compete successfully in the global economy.”
Common Core Standards: Race to the Top or Race to the Middle?
The common core is voluntary. This means each state can chose whether or not to adopt the standards. It is supported by the Federal Government through quite a bit of money, though, and if a state previously received funding through Race to the Top, they would need to adopt the new standards in order to maintain their funding.
Additionally, if a state would like to receive a No Child Left Behind waiver, they must also adopt the new standards. So it is obvious that there is a lot of pressure on states to adopt the new standards and that the Federal government sees great value in encouraging states to do so. Once adopted, states do not have the ability to change any of the standards, and give up the right and the ability to make final decisions on what their students learn.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, if the common core holds students to the highest standard, so let’s look at how these standards compare with the individual state standards they are replacing.
State Standards vs. Common Core
The easy assumption here would be that the common core is at least equal to, if not more rigorous than each state’s individual standards. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
R. James Milgram, Professor of Mathematics Emeritus at Stanford University, testified before Texas State Legislature that not only are the common core standards less rigorous than Texas’ own state standards, but he states that many of those involved in the writing of the common core math standards were “mainly focused on things like making the standards as non-challenging as possible.”
This is obviously his opinion on the matter and others have differing opinions, but the bottom line is that he went on in his testimony to show how the common core standards are approximately a year behind the Texas state standards by the time students reach 8th grade.
Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform, Arkansas University, testifies to similar concerns regarding the English Language Arts portion of the common core standards.
While the National standards are more rigorous than many state’s current standards, these “robust” standards trail behind others.
In fact, according to the Fordham Institute, 13 states had more rigorous English Language Arts standards and 11 states had more rigorous Math standards. This brings us back to the issue where states cannot change any standards if they adopt the Common Core – and will lose funding if they do not lower their standards to match the Common Core.
Common Core Advancing Mediocrity
The CCSS initiative website states that the standards are designed to be both practical and realistic for all classrooms. While any change this wide-sweeping will have its supporters and naysayers, it is worth noting that some schools will benefit from the boost in required student achievement and others will settle back into easier standards, allowing all students to meet in the middle.
Common Core State Standards Initiative. Implementing the State Common Core Standards. (2013). Accessed August 30, 2013.
Carmichael, Sheila Byrd, et. al. The State of State Standards – and the Common Core – in 2010. (2010). Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Accessed on August 30, 2013.
Philips, Gary W., Ph.D. International Benchmarking: State Education Performance Standards. (2010). American Institutes for Research. Accessed on August 30, 2013.
Parents Across America. James Milgram on the new Common Core standards in Math. Accessed on August 30, 2013.
Parents Across America. Sandra Stotsky on the Mediocrity of the Common Core ELA Standards. Accessed on August 30, 2013.
Williams, Bob; Luppino-Esposito, Joe. Financial Incentives are the “Core” of New Education Standards. (2013). State Budget Solutions. Accessed on August 30, 2013.
Burke, Lindsey. Some States reconsider Common Core Involvement. (2012). Heartland. Accessed on August 30, 2013.© Copyright 2013 Jennifer Wagaman, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting