What if someone who was really rich got together with some people who were really smart and discovered what was best for everyone? What would happen if they all used the power of government to nudge (that is, to coerce) people to adopt their program… because it was for the best, even if no one knew it?
You would get Common Core educational standards, a one-size-fits-all curriculum reform program that has been forced down school districts around the nation.
The reigning genie behind all this is Bill Gates. After all, he is richer than everyone else, so therefore he must be smarter than everyone else. Better yet, he suffers from a malady that seems to inflict nearly all tech oligarchs—they believe that they constitute a class of Platonic philosopher kings or guardians who know what is best for everyone because they have a clearer vision of the Ideas.
In the meantime, the folks who run the ACT test, the alternative to the SATs, has released a report about Common Core. Their National Curriculum Survey shows that the new set of educational standards does not prepare students to do college level work.
Mary Clare Reim reports the sad findings in The Signal, a publication of the Heritage foundation:
- While secondary teachers may be focusing on source-based writing [essays written about source-based documents], as emphasized in the Common Core, college instructors appear to value the ability to generate sound ideas more than some key features of source-based writing.
- Some early elementary teachers are still teaching certain math topics omitted from the Common Core Standards, perhaps based on the needs—real or perceived—of students entering their classrooms.
- In addition, many mathematics teachers in grades 4–7 report including certain topics relevant in STEM coursework in their curricula at grades earlier than they appear in the Common Core.”
So, Common Core does not teach children how to read, how to write, how to think or how to do math. Thus, teachers are forced to scramble, to bring their classwork up to the standards required to do work in STEM fields. Are you not shocked, at a time when parents are more aware of the importance of STEM subjects, to see that Common Core standards do not prepare students for advanced work in those fields?
As the report finds, the Common Core math standards do not adequately provide a child with the skills needed to succeed in the classroom, forcing teachers to add on extra material to their limited instruction time. Additionally, high school English teachers must now emphasize material that leaves students lacking in original thought and analytical skills according to many college professors. For example, only 18 percent of college professors surveyed rated their students as prepared to distinguish between opinion, fact, and reasoned judgement—a skill determined to be important for college-level work.
Why has Common Core failed? One reason, is that Common Core imposes a one-size-fits all curriculum on all students, regardless.
In Reim’s words:
The “one-size-fits-all” national standards are underserving American children. It is nearly impossible, and does a great disservice to future generations, to demand uniformity and place restrictions on the classroom that assumes one “best practice.”
Each child’s unique abilities require variation in teaching styles and curriculums. Common Core limits a parent’s say in their child’s curriculum, making the possibility of an education suited to his needs a near impossibility. Unfortunately, this report indicates that in an attempt to create uniform standards for achievement, Common Core fails to create the building blocks necessary to prepare aspiring students for college-level work.
As has also been noted, the Common Core way of teach math avoids rote learning in favor of thought experiments that take more time, produce inferior solutions and do not teach children the best and quickest way to learn.
Berkeley math professor Marina Ratner explained her objections to Common Core several years ago. She tried working on it with her grandson, a sixth-grader, and was exasperated with the way it was teaching math. The fact that Ratner saw so clearly that Common Core was failing to teach math suggests that the "experts" employed by Gates and Co. were not experts in math, but were experts from schools of education. Need I say more.
I posted about her Wall Street Journal article here. Ratner explained:
I also read that the Common Core offers "fewer standards" but "deeper" and "more rigorous" understanding of math. That there were "fewer standards" became obvious when I saw that they were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics. Many topics—for instance, calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry—were taken out and many were moved to higher grades.
As a result, the Common Core standards were several years behind the old standards, especially in higher grades. It became clear that the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.
Here are some more examples of the Common Core's convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: "draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression."
This model-drawing mania went on in my grandson's class for the entire year, leaving no time to cover geometry and other important topics. While model drawing might occasionally be useful, mathematics is not about visual models and "real world" stories. It became clear to me that the Common Core's "deeper" and "more rigorous" standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper—while the actual content taught was primitive.
As for helping American children compete with their peers in other nations, Common Core does just the opposite. It handicaps them.
In Ratner’s words:
Yet the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are "internationally benchmarked." They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. 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.