Parents of high-ability students are demanding their San Francisco school board restore their courses for high achievers, which have been set aside while schools in the district switched over to the Common Core standards.
Changes to the curriculum have included pushing Algebra I out of middle school and into the high school freshman year, as well as eliminating honors classes in both middle school and ninth grade, reports SFGate. Additionally, the evaluation process used by the district to identify high achievers—GATE (Gifted and Talented Education Program)—has been suspended since that system relied on state standardized tests, which were also postponed during the switch to Common Core.
“The angry parents, however, accused the district of dumbing down instruction and ignoring or holding back smart students to focus on the needs of those at the bottom end of the achievement gap,” says a news report about a meeting of parents with the school board.
Academic standards experts—some of whom wrote the old, highly-acclaimed California standards—warned several years ago that Common Core would “dumb down” curricula in the name of social justice and closing the achievement gap between minority and white students.
In March of 2014, Ze’ev Wurman—a former U.S. Department of Education senior policy adviser under President George W. Bush—told Breitbart News, “Common Core claims to prepare students for college, yet, at most, its content prepares them for community and four-year, non-selective colleges. Its own authors admit as much.”
Common Core math standards writer Jason Zimba acknowledged in 2013 that Common Core is “not only not for STEM” careers “but also not for selective colleges…” while at a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Wurman further commented on the College Board’s decision to align the SAT with the Common Core standards as well.
“This charade is bound to explode, unless a way is found to force regular state colleges to accept the low-level college-readiness offered by the Common Core,” Wurman said. “The goal is, as the College Board says, to ‘bridge economic and demographic barriers’ rather than assure that college freshmen are adequately prepared.”
“So, in the name of this ‘social justice,’ the SAT is now being dumbed down so it will find more students ‘ready,’ whether truly ready or not,” he said.
Stanford University mathematician Dr. James Milgram also warned parents in Texas in September of 2014 that with Common Core, unless 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 added.
Milgram asserted that a strong education in mathematics is essential for success.
“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.”
He 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.”
According to SFGate, San Francisco district officials said the changes provide all children with more challenging coursework rather than just high-ability students. They added that Common Core reflects a higher bar for all students rather than a system that recognizes which child is advanced or not.
The news report demonstrates the main idea is not to provide individualized instruction to students based on their abilities but, instead, to allow lower functioning students the opportunity to “catch up” to same-age peers with higher abilities—who remain stagnant while that happens,
According to the report:
In the past, if a student didn’t qualify for Algebra I by eighth grade, they had little chance of catching up to their peers to take calculus and qualify for prestigious universities. Now, all students stay together in the same math courses until later in high school, when those wanting to surge ahead can combine Algebra II and pre-calculus to then qualify for calculus senior year.
In Kentucky, however—the first state to have adopted the Common Core standards—college math professors are beginning to “revolt” against accepting students into college math classes who are not prepared for the coursework.
A letter from the math department chairs of most of Kentucky’s four-year universities addressed a proposed top-down system that invited less-than-ready students who would have previously gone through remediation to simply be thrown into credit-bearing college courses with some extra help so they can “catch up.”
“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 the new plan is one that would “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.”