The change from solving equations to analyzing functions at length has been challenging for students and parents alike, and since 2009 when Common Core was introduced in American public schools, it’s been a politically charged issue by parents.
Currently, 42 states plus the District of Columbia use the standards, with adoption motivated in part by financial incentives provided by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative. There have been plenty of other complications, too, from parents complaining they don’t know how to help their first-graders with their math homework. As a result, even those committed to embracing the new ways of functional thinking are questioning whether the standards work.
Among several initiatives of common core, it aims to teach deep mathematical thinking and to prepare children for the “jobs of tomorrow.” Parents can’t rely on just showing a child the tricks they learned in school. Today’s children must think on a deeper level, apply math differently, and explain their thinking.
Since mathematical thinking builds from one grade to another, tenth graders are now struggling to meet standards because they lack the foundation for achieving them. Even some fifth graders lack the vocabulary and higher order thinking skills in math needed to transition to the current rigorous standards leaving many students struggling to adapt. Right answers aren’t enough if they can’t explain how they got it or why they approached it a certain way and a lot of parents don’t have the tools to help them.
Unfortunately, Common Core can undermine students’ intellectual growth and leaves many graduates unprepared for true college-level work, as opposed to career training. Common Core requires high-school seniors, those about to enter college or adult life, to read 70 percent nonfiction and 30 percent fiction in school. Younger children start out with a higher proportion of fiction, which gradually declines.
Sadly, in the era of Common Core, the primary educational emphasis is “career-readiness.” It drops the vision of American citizens as free people with the right and responsibility of self-rule and instead it almost treats students like “human resources” that officials must shape to perform some function in our increasingly government-controlled society.
To enter college, high school graduates have traditionally been required to demonstrate academic preparation that exceeds the average, not merely the ability to scrape by the lowest graduation requirements. Americans formerly sent to college the particularly academic-minded, and our graduation and entrance requirements for both institutions reflected that distinction. By saying that Common Core is good enough, we undermine the need to strive for excellence that used to drive students.
This has already led to declining academic standards of colleges such that employers continue to complain recent graduates are unqualified.
“At the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in January during her first major policy address of the year. To back up President Trump’s Twitter statement in 2016 that Common Core is a “disaster,” DeVos said she supported school choice rather than a “federal first” model the education system that’s currently in use.
“It’s about educational freedom,” DeVos said. “Our societies and economies have moved beyond the industrial era, but the data tell us education hasn’t.”
It’s still a bit early to make reliable conclusions about Common Core’s effects on recent high school graduates since it was not fully implemented in most American schools until 2014, but the early results so far are worrisome. Overall ACT scores have slightly declined since 2009, and SAT scores dropped in 2015 after showing no changes since 2007.
Parents can look at the new standards and ask the teachers for help. Sometimes the school district, or the school, has parent education nights explaining topics in math. Those are valuable opportunities to learn. Unfortunately, few parents have time to learn the new standards.