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Study: Common Core Math Will Lower College Standards in the United States

Study: Common Core Math Will Lower College Standards in the United States

According to a new report published by the Boston-based research group Pioneer Institute, the Common Core math standards will not prepare U.S. students for advanced math classes that, consequently, will see lower enrollments. This situation, the report’s authors say, will ultimately lead to a dumbing down of college STEM curricula.

Education assessment expert and author Richard P. Phelps and top mathematician R. James Milgram, a Stanford University professor of mathematics and former member of the Common Core Validation Committee, are authors of the report titled, “The Revenge of K-12: How Common Core and the New SAT Lower College Standards in the U.S.”

Referring to the promises made by Common Core Math Standards (CCMS) developers and supporters as “empty rhetoric,” the authors write:

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. 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), 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.

Phelps and Milgram go on to say that, with the alignment of the SAT exam to the Common Core standards, the test shifts from being an aptitude test – one that is predictive of college success – to being an achievement test, one that is “aligned to and locking in a low level of mathematics.”

What this means, say the authors, is that future SAT scores will provide less information about students to college admissions officers, and that the exam will no longer have as a purpose identifying students with high STEM potential in high schools with weak mathematics and science instruction.

The alignment of the SAT then, with the Common Core, is likely to cause the most harm to high ability, low-income students in struggling schools. Though college admission counselors could once use the SAT to pick out students with high STEM potential – even those who attended weak math and science high schools – now the SAT will provide duplicate data and be correlated with other available measures of performance, such as grade-point average, class rank, state high school tests, and the new Common Core-aligned tests developed by PARCC and SBAC, the two federally-funded test consortia.

“The only higher education involvement was from institutions that agreed to place any students who pass Common Core-based tests in high school into credit-bearing college courses,” said Phelps. “The guarantee came in return for states’ hoped-for receipt of federal ‘Race to the Top’ grant funding.”

“Many students will fail those courses – until they’re watered down,” he added.

Pioneer Institute (PI) observes how the Common Core math standards will be further harmful to low-income, high STEM ability students because with Common Core, nothing higher than Algebra II will be tested by the new multi-state assessments developed by 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 asserts in a press release.

“Research has shown that the highest-level math course taken in high school is the single best predictor of college success,” PI continues. “Only 39 percent of the members of the class of 1992 who entered college having taken no farther than Algebra II earned a college degree. The authors estimate that the number will shrink to 31-33 percent for the class of 2012.”

Though supporters of the Common Core have continued to describe the nationalized standards as “rigorous,” lead authors of the Common Core math standards Jason Zimba and William McCallum have publicly acknowledged the standards’ weakness, but continue to defend them.

“Proponents claim the Common Core standards are internationally benchmarked, but compulsory standards for the lower secondary grades in China are more advanced than any CCMS material,” PI states. “The highest-achieving countries have standards for different pathways based on curricular preferences, goals and levels of achievement, and each pathway has its own exit examination.”

“A one-size-fits-all academic achievement target must of necessity be low,” Milgram said. “Otherwise politically unacceptable numbers of students will fail.”

Breitbart News reported on September 1st that Milgram told listeners on a recent conference call that if the controversial Common Core math standards are not repealed, America’s place as a competitor in the technology industry will be severely undermined.

In addition, a recently reviewed 2013 study by the pro-Common Core Carnegie Corporation revealed a stunning finding that, under the controversial standards, the high school graduation rate will be 15 percent lower than the current rate, with an accompanying doubled dropout rate.


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