Common Core instills mediocrity in education

By Jane Robbins

South Dakota Board of Regents President Jack Warner (July 13 Forum) has a firm grasp on all the talking points of the Common Core proponents: The new national standards are “rigorous;” they will make our students “college- and career-ready;” they will lead to “deeper understanding.” All of this sounds good, but none of it is proven (the standards have never been tested or piloted) and none of it is true.

In fact, as one of the authors of the national math standards has publicly admitted, the “college” that Common Core is designed to prepare our students for is a nonselective community college, not a four-year university. The only mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee (that is, the only scholar with an advanced degree in mathematics, not education) refused to sign off on the standards because he said they would put our students at least two years behind those of higher performing nations by eighth grade.

The Common Core English language arts standards fare no better in the “rigor” department. In the first place, they were written by only two people (David Coleman and Sue Pimentel), neither of whom has ever taught English. Indeed, a search of the entire “Work Group” that was formed to (theoretically) help draft the standards reveals not a single English teacher or English professor. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who is the nation’s premier expert on English standards and who served on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off on them because she recognized them to be inadequate for preparing students for authentic college coursework.

Warner does express concern that student scores on the new national tests will go down because the tests are more “rigorous,” and that will prompt South Dakotans to discard the standards. Scores may indeed go down; not because the tests are harder, but because they require students to parrot recycled “fuzzy math” techniques that have been tried and discarded in the past. Every adult in South Dakota would probably fail the Common Core test for third-grade math because he or she knows only how to work math problems, not how to “explain” the “deeper” concepts in arbitrary terms that make no sense to any normal human being.

The entire focus of Warner’s article is that the point of education is workforce development. And Common Core is designed expressly for this purpose. The world view of the standards is that students should be trained for entry-level jobs so that they can be plugged into the managed economic machine. The irony is that the standards are so deficient that we will probably miss even this low target. And if South Dakotans want to revise the standards, they will find that they have relinquished all control over English and math education to unaccountable private interests in Washington.

Why are we settling for the mediocrity — and the loss of local and parental control — embodied by Common Core?


July 27, 2013 6:30 am  •  Jane Robbins, J.D. She writes from Stone Mountain, Ga., where she is an attorney and senior fellow with American Principles Project and co-author of “Controlling Education From the Top: Why Common Core Is Bad for America.” Robbins will be the main speaker at a South Dakota Citizens for Liberty conference in Rapid City on Aug. 24.

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