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Common Core ‘College Readiness’ Another Deception: ‘Never Validated’

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Americans were told the Common Core standards initiative would allow more students – particularly low-income and minority students – to achieve “college ready” status in order to be successful in higher education. The supposedly more “rigorous” standards were sold as the way to achieve greater preparation for advanced education for American students. Recent evidence, however, demonstrates this is not the case.

In August, ACT – the nonprofit that developed the college admissions and placement test that is administered to more than 1.8 million high school graduates annually – issued an alarming announcement.

“U.S. high school graduates continue to make little progress in college and career readiness, according to The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015, the latest annual student readiness report from ACT,” a news release said. “The lack of growth has prompted ACT to issue a call to action to policymakers, educators, students and parents, urging them to do their part to help improve educational outcomes and support college and career readiness for all students.”

“The needle is barely moving on college and career readiness, and that means far too many young people will continue to struggle after they graduate from high school,” said ACT CEO Jon Whitmore. “This should be a wake-up call for our nation.”

According to ACT’s report, this year only 40 percent of high school graduates exhibited strong college readiness in at least three of the four core subject areas – English, math, reading, and science. This outcome has not changed for the past five years.

Additionally, 31 percent of graduates did not meet readiness levels in any of the four subject areas, and that outcome has been flat for the past two years and even slightly higher than in 2011 and 2012.

ACT also noted that “readiness levels remain weakest among underserved minority groups.”

“African American, American Indian, Hispanic and native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students trail far behind their white and Asian peers in readiness in each of the four subject areas,” states ACT, “as is also true in college enrollment and graduation rates—with no signs of closing those gaps.”

“These general findings from ACT mirror those of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other large-scale academic achievement studies, which show that U.S. students have not progressed over the past several years in terms of their preparedness for success after high school,” concludes ACT.

Since ACT is a recipient of grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the primary source of private funding for the Common Core standards – the company might like to use its findings to press what it sees as the need for more effort for Common Core – a highly unpopular initiative.

What is especially significant, however, are ACT’s findings in the state of Kentucky, the very first state to adopt the Common Core standards – sight unseen – in February of 2010. If Common Core is indeed ensuring more students of all socio-economic levels will be “college ready,” these positive results should be showing up in Kentucky’s test scores by now.

As Richard Innes writing at the Bluegrass Institute, reported in August, however:

For sure, what the ACT data tells us isn’t so rosy…

Overall, ACT test results show only 21 percent of all Kentucky’s graduates, public, private and home school combined, were fully prepared for a liberal arts college education with adequate skills in English, math, reading and science.

That’s all!

Just 21 percent!

The situation looks far grimmer when we review how Kentucky’s racial minorities fared.

  • Only one in 20 black students – just five percent – were fully ready for college. That gruesome figure is unchanged from last year.
  • A not much higher percentage of Hispanics, just 14 percent, were prepared, as well.

Overall, these data points just don’t mesh with claims from the Kentucky Department of Education that more than half our kids are being prepared for college. What kind of college are they being prepared for? Certainly not the kind the ACT, Inc. has in mind.

Now, two months later, Innes reports that, at a recent state Board of Education meeting, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) Bob King proposed a “radical” new system – called Co-Requisite Courses – whereby students who were behind could accelerate somehow in order to catch up to better prepared students during the first year of college. Innes writes the response King received from college math professors was nothing less than a “revolt.”

A letter from the math department chairs of most of Kentucky’s four-year universities suggested King’s new system was another top-down plan.

“There has been no general invitation” regarding the new system “from Kentucky communities of mathematicians and mathematics educators,” the math professors noted.

The letter continues:

Placing these students into courses for which they have not met prerequisites can only lead to either lower educational standards or increased failure rates…

This will result in lower standards for college students than currently exist for high school students…

Where similar initiatives have been implemented, it is clear that success has been typically attained simply by redefining what it means to be successful… In particular, basic skills in elementary algebra have effectively been discarded.

Additionally, Professor Steve Newman from Northern Kentucky University penned a paper with his concern that King’s council “is finalizing a plan to solve the college remediation problem by eliminating remedial courses and imposing a one‐size‐fits‐all model based on the assumption that all high school graduates are prepared for college level work.”

“This assumption is clearly false, and will result in lower academic standards and expectations for incoming college students,” Newman continues. “Indeed, it is difficult to see how these standards and expectations could be set any lower.”

Newman further notes that adopting King’s plan as a statewide standard “will be particularly destructive in mathematics because students will no longer be held accountable by the postsecondary system for learning any algebra, not even the most basic algebra universally regarded as essential for college readiness in mathematics.”

Newman’s observations about King’s new plan could clearly be the same for Common Core.

“Critics of the Common Core State Standards predicted a dumbing down of college standards as an inevitable consequence of the adoption of…’minimum’ standards,” writes Innes. “After all, standards that omit high school trigonometry and pre-calculus are not going to get many kids ready for real college work. But, if the new college standard won’t even require high school mastery of algebra, we have a real problem.”

In August of 2014, Stanford University mathematics professor James Milgram echoed these concerns when he told an audience in Texas that with the Common Core, unless U.S. students are able to afford exclusive private high school educations that are more challenging, they will be disadvantaged.

“If you don’t have a strong background in mathematics then your most likely career path is into places like McDonald’s,” he said. “In today’s world… the most critical component of opening doors for students is without any question some expertise in mathematics.”

Former U.S. Department of Education senior policy adviser under President George W. Bush Ze’ev Wurman tells Breitbart News that what Innes reports in Kentucky is not surprising:

We know that Common Core’s “college-readiness” has never been validated. Further, we know that the [Common Core-aligned tests] PARCC and SBAC cut-scores, supposedly reflecting that readiness, have not been validated with teachers of incoming freshmen. Instead, they have simply tried to emulate the 8th grade NAEP fraction of “proficient” students, in itself an experimental measure that has no track record of predicting college readiness.

Wurman, also a senior fellow with the American Principles Project, who helped to develop the old California state standards, continues:

The old (2002-3) California Early Assessment Program (EAP) is a study in contrast. The California State University system (CSU) took our 11th grade state test, analyzed it, and suggested to augment it with additional dozen items to make the appropriate stresses and assure college readiness. This became a shining success story as more and more kids rose to the challenge and successfully took the EAP augmentation to indicate their readiness. Unfortunately, when Common Core came along, CSU was forced in 2015 to accept the unmodified SBAC results – instead of the EAP augmentation which it had developed – much like Kentucky.

So how does this new Common Core “readiness” measure up in California? We don’t know because California did not publish any results yet. What we do know is that in 2014, the last year the old EAP was administered while Common Core was already being taught in schools, the number of EAP takers dropped slightly, and their success rates dropped sharply, for the first time ever.

“Clearly Common Core does not seem to bode well on a measure of college readiness with a long track record,” Wurman concludes.


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