Common Core: A Failed Experiment By: Madison Rosen

What is Common Core?

Common Core is a confusing topic that most of us know little or nothing about. It can be difficult to understand and many people have formed opinions on it, but don't truly understand the concept. The development of the Common Core was funded almost entirely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In short, Common core is a set of standards that is used for both math and ELA (English Language Arts) for students in the United States. It was created with the intention that all students graduate high school with the skill set needed to do well in college, maintain a job, compete on the global scale, and be prepared for the life ahead of them. Forty-two States out of the 50 U.S. states, Washington D.C., four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have voluntarily adopted the standard. Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Nebraska, Indiana, and South Carolina are the only states who have not adopted the initiative. If you refuse to do so, your state will not be funded by the Race to the Top program. Ever since Common Core was launched in 2009, there has been both positive and negative results. So, has the idealistic plan of preparing students for life been reached since its launch? The answer is: No. Theoretically, the goals of Common Core are great but in reality it is a failed, to date, to achieve its desired goals.

Map of states and U.S. territories that have adopted and not adopted the standard.

What are the Standards?

Common Core covers both English Language Arts and Mathematics. Some key standards for ELA are:

  • Reading complexity advances through each grade and a progressive development of reading comprehension
  • Students read from noted authors such as William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Robert Frost
  • Writing standards are based on logical arguments based on claims, solid reasoning, and relevant evidence
  • Students expand their use of words and phrases

Some key standards for mathematics include:

  • Students can make sense of problems and persevere them
  • Construct valid arguments critique other's reasonin
  • Use mathematics tools when appropriate and use them strategically
  • Reason conceptually

The Good

Many teachers do support Common Core for what it will eventually be. The ideal of Common Core is supposed to work in a matter of years and it is hard to argue with high standards. Many educators believe that Common Core will put creativity back in the classroom. Common Core uses a variety of visual activities to enhance learning and give students a greater understanding of the topic. Some teachers say that Common Core will provide a deep understanding that will continue even after standardized testing. “I’ve been faced with the challenge of having to teach roughly 100 math topics over the course of a single year,” says Kisha Davis-Caldwell, a fourth grade teacher at Maryland Title 1 Elemantary School. “The Common Core takes this smorgasbord of topics and removes things from the plate, allowing me to focus on key topics we know will form a clear and a consistent foundation for students.” Common Core is also supposed to allow educators to teach and deliver material any way they choose. "The Common Core will create opportunities to share resources and create common resources,” says Kisha Davis-Caldwell. “We can discuss what isn’t working and use our voices collectively. That way we can all be part of the conversation about assessment of teaching, learning, and the standards themselves.” So yes, despite all the negative comments it's been getting recently, there are some good aspects to common core.

The problem with the above is that it's all opinion. Educators support Common Core for what it might turn out to be. There isn't enough evidence to show that Common Core is working to date.

The Bad

Common Core has astonished many since its launch, including billionaire business magnate Bill Gates and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. So why are 62% of students, teachers, and parents against it? (My survey) Common Core is theoretically supposed to set a higher standard for students all over the U.S.. But in reality, Common Core finds the average between the gifted students and the failing students somewhere in the middle. This ensures that all students learn the same material. However, its hold back the natural abilities of the gifted students. In some cases, the Common Core standards really were better than the state standards, but in Massachusetts, for example, the state standards were superior and well tested but were ditched anyway because along with the other states that signed on, it wanted to be funded. Another negative aspect of Common Core is state testing. Every year, thousands of students opt out of the state tests. Parents are telling administrators that students will not take exams that make teachers teach to the test and drain school budgets. Parents and students want schools that offer a well-rounded curriculum and a reasonable amount and way of testing. But the Common Core seems to focus too much on testing. The Race to the Top program awarded New York $700 million on the condition that the state adopts a value added modeling teacher evaluation system. This basically means that the state can fire teachers if the test scores are low, putting more focus on the state tests. As a result, there is a lot of low-level learning that drains creativity and critical thinking. Schools will no longer focus on skills that are important and necessary for the 21st century like innovation, creative thinking, and life skills. As a result of low-level learning, students have been fleeing public schools for private schools at an alarming rate. This is also because Common Core doesn't work in a way that meets students individual needs.

The Ugly

Common Core has failed to improve academic performance. In math, the U.S. ranked 40th in the world and 31st out of the 35 developed countries that provide data to the study. The U.S. ranked 24th in the world on a study's "reading literacy scale". And lastly, 25th in science... Not exactly the ideal rankings we want for our country. American children are receiving objectively worse academic instruction because of Common Core. “There also is no evidence that CCSS [Common Core State Standards] has made much of a difference during a six-year period of stagnant NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores.” Says a former supporter of the standards. NAEP's tests are the nation's highest-quality tests. Researchers have used them as benchmarks to see students abilities change over time. Researcher Ze’ev Wurman looked at several other indicators of student achievement and found none have improved since Common Core went into effect. In fact, SAT and ACT scores have gone down ever since. Present data has shown that Common Core's benefits have already peaked and nonadopters have performed better than Common Core states. Therefore, the federal government spent billions of dollars all for nothing. Common Core supporters are already beginning to suggest that we also dumb down NAEP. Making tests easier in order to fix bad grades is definitely not the best approach.

Ideal (Theory) Vs. Reality

The ideals and goals of common core are exceptional. Higher standards are great, but it has been executed very poorly. The federal government is too far removed from the local schools. Education needs to be managed at the local level. As a result we get bureaucrats getting involved in enforcing rules instead of teachers, politics, public protests against it, and organizations competing for money. The federal government is like a machete trying to perform precision heart surgery.

In conclusion, the ideals of Common Core are valid, but it has not been executed properly. Common Core is not working and it's not likely to work ever because the federal government doesn't know how to regulate education at the local level. The federal government should not force rules on the states. As an alternative, the federal government should set standards, but it should be left to the states to decide how to implement them.

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