The most widely held belief is that we need the Common Core Standards (CCS) to help American students compete on the international stage. In fact, many claim it is a matter of national security that we adopt these standards to better compete in a global, 21st century environment. Supporters urge states and school districts, “Don’t listen to the naysayers. If we don’t adopt CCS, America will be left behind!”
The beloved Michelle Rhee of Students First stated to EdWeek’s Michele McNeil that legislators are concerned over the constant complaints from constituents that the CCS are an intrusion of the federal government. No problem, Rhee says, just do this:
“You need to reframe the debate,” Rhee said she told the Florida lawmakers. “This is about China kicking our butts. Do you want China to kick our butts? No!”
Geez, talk about fear mongering! However, her advice will only get legislators into more trouble than they are already in for ignoring to take steps to stop CCS. I’ll guarantee fireworks after folks read Common Core Standards: the New U.S. Intended Curriculum published by the American Educational Research Association. This report compared the CCS to top performing countries and high achieving states and found the CCS had very little in common with them. Such little DNA was shared, they aren’t even second cousins.
Surprisingly, this information is not denied by proponents of the CCS. In fact, they changed their wording from “internationally benchmarked” to “internationally informed” without skipping one verse in their praise for CCS. Are they intentionally setting up Americans to fail academically? I hope not.
Let’s look at the cold facts presented in the study. In eighth grade mathematics, the CCS had 13% alignment with Singapore, 17% alignment with Japan, and 21% alignment with Finland. These countries consistently produce the top performing students in mathematics in the world. Among states with high ranked standards the alignment to CCS is also very low; California K-5= 20.6% and 9-12= 31%, Indiana K-8= 27% and 9-12=25%. In English Language Arts the statistics are similar: Massachusetts 6-8= 25%, California K-8= 35%, Indiana K-8= 31% and 9-12= 35%.
This country is under the impression that the CCS was developed under the guidance of including the best of high-performing nations and states’ standards to create the Common Core. By the looks of this report, less than 35% was taken from the highest performing states and an average of 17% was taken from the highest performing countries.
A greater ignorance was paid to the type of cognitive demand called for in high performing countries. We have heard OVER and OVER again that performing procedures and memorization are bringing down achievement in the U.S. and the CCS requirement of more conjecture and non-routine problem solving is the solution. You know, the “explain your answer” or “model your understanding” that is driving CCS curriculums across this country. This is not the curriculum used in top performing countries. The top performers mentioned allot 75% of their content standards to perform procedure where CCS is a paltry 38%. Memorization is also more of a focus in these high performing countries. Yet, the drum continues to beat across the country for less procedural knowledge and greater conceptual understanding. The high-performing countries aren’t singing along, they’re already on the next verse.
The empirical evidence against CCS is overwhelming, but it doesn’t seem to bubble up through the pile of money many proponents stand to make. As with many problems in American society, the money seems to drown out the voice of the truth. We watch policy unfold before us wondering, “Does America still hold in her hands a hero capable of ignoring the money and acknowledging the truth?” It takes Waiting for Superman to a whole new level.
How does Michelle Rhee expect us to “kick China’s butt” while following standards far from those of high performing countries? It looks to me like we are going to get our “butts kicked” by a lot more countries if we follow Common Core. Do we want our students to compete with one hand tied behind their back? Do they not deserve to be educated to the highest standards of the world?
Is this part of the apology tour for American exceptionalism?