With support plummeting for the controversial Common Core standards, it appears at least one university president is resorting to the phony “war on women” meme to give a boost to the national education initiative.
In an op-ed in Sunday’s Miami Herald, University of Miami president Donna Shalala claimed that the Common Core standards can “reduce gender-based inequities by ensuring that every young woman receives the educational foundation she needs to be successful in college and career.”
“With Common Core’s more engaging and challenging standards, we can narrow the gender achievement gap that begins early and worsens by eighth grade, particularly for black and Hispanic girls,” Shalala wrote.
There are many problems with Shalala’s premise, not the least of which is the fact that, as Neal McCluskey observes at Cato, the college-readiness “gender gap” in favor of men is “non-existent.”
“Walk around a random college campus, and the odds are good the first student you’ll run into will be female,” writes McCluskey, pointing out that 57 percent of college students are women, compared to 43 percent men. He notes 56 percent of students taking the Advanced Placement exams are also young women.
However, even if Shalala is suggesting the existence of a gender gap in STEM subjects that tend to attract more males, the overriding problem is that no one – male or female – will be adequately prepared for STEM careers with Common Core because the math standards do not address the advanced math necessary for those careers.
As Breitbart News reported in September, a new paper by assessment expert Richard P. Phelps and Stanford University mathematician R. James Milgram refers to the promises made by the Common Core Math Standards (CCMS) as “empty rhetoric.”
“Because the CCMS are standards for all public school students in this country, regardless of achievement level, they are low standards, topping out at about the level of a weak Algebra II course,” the authors observe in their report published by the Massachusetts-based Pioneer Institute (PI).
“And because this level is to determine ‘college readiness’ as they define it (which is not remotely what our public four year college and universities currently assume it to be),” the authors continue, “it is apt to mean fewer high school students taking advanced mathematics and science coursework before they go to college, more college freshmen with even less knowledge of mathematics than currently, and more college credit-bearing courses set at an international level of seventh or eighth grade.”
As far as Shalala’s claim that the Common Core standards will narrow the gender achievement gap, especially for minority women, PI observes how Common Core math will be further harmful to low-income, high STEM ability students, because with these math standards nothing higher than Algebra II will be tested by the new federally funded, multi-state assessments developed by consortia PARCC and SBAC.
“High schools in low-income areas will be under the greatest fiscal pressure to eliminate under-subscribed electives like trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus,” PI said in a press release.
Shalala’s claim that the Common Core standards are “more rigorous K-12 education standards” is the same empty talking point that carries no weight simply because no independent studies have been performed that prove this argument.
In fact, in a recent report, also published by PI, visiting Hoosier scholar and former senior policy adviser with the U.S. Department of Education Ze’ev Wurman cited two studies conducted by Common Core Validation Committee members, who signed off on the standards in 2010 and then later attempted to find post facto evidence to justify their decisions. According to Wurman, in both studies the research was poorly executed and failed to provide evidence that the Common Core standards are internationally competitive and reflective of college-readiness.
Similarly, Wurman’s research is consistent with another study published by the Brookings Institution which found that the Common Core standards will have “little to no impact on student achievement.”
Brookings’ 2014 Brown Center report revealed that states whose standards were less like Common Core performed better on national assessments than those states that had standards more like Common Core.
Shalala’s claim that the Common Core standards will improve education for women is based on a premise that does not exist and smacks of desperation to boost the image of a failing initiative.
“Defense of the Common Core has too often come in the form of platitudes and ungrounded assertions,” writes McCluskey. “This latest effort hasn’t improved upon that.”