U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says even though Common Core no longer exists – a controversial statement in itself – she hopes states will still “shoot high” when choosing their standards.
In an interview this week in her home state of Michigan, DeVos was asked by a CBS affiliate WWMT reporter whether she plans to repeal Common Core. The secretary responded, “Well, with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, in essence, Common Core is not a national program or mandate anymore.”
Power has been returned to state and local entities to be able to decide what standards and what expectations they are going to have of their students. Now I’m very hopeful that every state will set their expectations high. We want them to shoot high on behalf of their students, but the reality is there is no more federal Common Core and it’s not mandated from the federal level.
The secretary implies that the Common Core math and English Language Arts standards are “high” standards and that even though, according to her, states can create their own standards, she is hoping they will still “shoot high,” even if they choose not to use Common Core.
DeVos’s statement follows another recent interview in which she said, “There really isn’t any Common Core anymore” in the nation’s schools, even though, according to Education Week, “at least 37 states” were still using the Common Core standards as of the end of last year.
Those who have been studying the disastrous effects of Common Core for years now challenge the secretary’s comments implying the standards are “high.”
“It is irresponsible for someone in a position of authority to imply that Common Core is of high quality,” Emmett McGroarty, senior fellow at American Principles Project, tells Breitbart News. “There is no way to sugar-coat it.”
Common Core locks children into an inferior education. With respect to English Language Arts, as renowned experts such as Dr. Sandra Stotsky have demonstrated, it dictates a severe reduction in the amount of classic, narrative literature that children are taught. With respect to the math standards, it requires the use of fuzzy math strategies. This slows down students’ academic progression and puts them one to two years behind their peers in high-performing countries by eighth grade. It deprives them of practice time using the standard algorithms, and it perhaps also explains why Common Core omits certain important content.
Some of the nation’s most esteemed experts in academic standards have voiced grave concerns about the quality of the Common Core standards.
In a 2014 op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, Marina Ratner, renowned professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, explained why the Common Core standards will make math education even worse in the United States and move the nation “even closer to the bottom in international ranking.”
Ratner said she began to study Common Core more closely as a result of observing the math schoolwork her grandson, who was then in the sixth grade, was doing.
“They were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics,” she observed about Common Core.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
One of the lead writers of the Common Core math standards themselves, in fact, said as much to Dr. Sandra Stotsky during a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Jason Zimba responded to Stotsky’s question about the Common Core math standards that they would not prepare students for STEM or selective four-year colleges:
Zimba said the criticism of the definition of “college readiness” as put forward by the creators of Common Core is “a fair critique.”
“It’s not only not for STEM; it’s also not for selective colleges,” Zimba agreed with Stotsky regarding the Core.
Similarly, Dr. James Milgram, a former professor of mathematics at Stanford University, told grassroots parent groups that were protesting the “rebranding” of Common Core by then-Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana at the time, that Common Core would prevent their children from moving into STEM careers.
“If you don’t have a strong background in mathematics then your most likely career path is into places like McDonald’s,” he said, reported Breitbart News at the time. “In today’s world … the most critical component of opening doors for students is without any question some expertise in mathematics.”
Milgram – who, like Stotsky, was invited to be a member of the Common Core Validation Committee but refused to sign off on the final product – explained that in the high-achieving countries, where about a third of the population of the world outside the United States is located, about 90 percent of citizens have a high school degree for which the requirements include at least one course in calculus.
“That’s what they know,” he said. “If we’re lucky, we know Algebra II. With Algebra II as background, only one in 50 people will ever get a college degree in STEM.”
Milgram warned that with the Common Core standards, unless U.S. students are able to afford exclusive private high school educations that are more challenging, they will be disadvantaged.
“This shows that, from my perspective, Common Core does not come close to the rhetoric that surrounds it,” he continued. “It doesn’t even begin to approach the issues that it was supposedly designed to attack. The things it does are completely distinct from what needs to be done.”
In a guest column at Breitbart News in 2015, former senior policy adviser under President George W. Bush’s education department, Ze’ev Wurman, refuted the claims that the Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked” and “rigorous.”
“Common Core standards were never validated before being published, and every serious piece of research that has analyzed them since found them lacking,” Wurman asserted, explaining further:
Common Core firmly placed the first Algebra course in the high school. It also doesn’t take an expert to observe that Common Core’s “college preparation” in mathematics amounts to a poor-man’s Algebra 2 and Geometry courses. The U.S. Department of Education’s own data shows that with only Algebra 2 preparation – even the full course – the chances of a student to end up with a Bachelor’s degree – any Bachelor’s degree – is less than 40% (table 5 here). According to the National Center for Education Statistics data, a student attempting a STEM degree with such preparation has only an alarming 1 in 50 chance of success (Table 7 here). In fact, one of the key authors of the standards, Dr. Jason Zimba, clearly acknowledged that Common Core is “for the colleges most kids go to but not that most parents probably aspire … it’s not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges.” Yet Common Core promoters still swear that they are “Career- and College-Ready.”
“Parents are justified in their complaints about the strange and meaningless homework their children are bringing home, and they should distrust educators who uncritically praise them,” Wurman concluded. “More likely than not, those educators themselves have little experience and have been sold a bill of goods by Common Core’s Washington, D.C. promoters.”
Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at American Principles Project, who has also refuted the claims of the Common Core promoters for years, tells Breitbart News, “I hope Secretary DeVos is aware of the voluminous research establishing that the Common Core standards aren’t ‘high quality’ at all.”
“Instead, they dumb down both English and math to the level of utilitarian workforce training,” she adds. “The continual repetition of the ‘higher standards’ mantra is getting tiresome.”