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Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM

This paper began as a response to the attempt by Professor Jason Zimba, a lead writer of Common Core’s mathematics standards, to revise in 2013 what he said about the meaning of “college readiness” in 2010. Zimba’s original comments on this topic were uttered at the March 2010 meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In the official minutes of this meeting, we find the following: “Mr. Zimba said that the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on nonselective colleges.”

New York State Test Results: Uninterpretable But a Portent of the Future (by Sandra Stotsky)

In the original version of David Steiner’s talk on the meaning of the drop in test scores in New York State, he says: “The truth we are now trying to tell, for the first time, is relative to something called college- and career-readiness, roughly equivalent to the ability to enter a community college without the need for remediation.” That statement is also in the version appearing in his Education Next blog. Something happened to this truth in his op-ed in the New York Post on August 8, 2013. The truth is still relative to something called college-and career-readiness, but that concept is now “roughly equivalent to the ability to enter and succeed in college.” Not “community college.” Two very different […]

9 Signs of Academic Rigor in English Standards (by Sandra Stotsky)

What makes one set of English language arts standards more rigorous than another set? How can reporters or policy makers tell? What makes Tom Luna of Idaho or Kathleen Porter Magee at the Fordham Institute think Common Core’s English language arts standards are more rigorous than Idaho’s or many other states’ previous standards? We don’t know because they don’t tell us. They don’t know, either, we suspect. They simply repeat the R word like well-trained parrots. [quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]So, how can one judge the academic rigor of a set of English language arts standards. What are some of the things to do or look for?[/quote] Many researchers and state department of education staff love to do “crosswalks.” What they do is […]

4 Steps to Upgrade Teacher & Administrator Prep Programs (by Sandra Stotsky)

How to Upgrade Teacher and Administrator Preparation Programs The part of public education that has received the least attention for reform is the most important: whom our education schools admit and how they are prepared to be teachers, administrators, education researchers, and education policy makers. Although there is very little high quality research on these topics, useful information for reforming education schools came from the massive review undertaken by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel for its report in 2008. It found no relationship between student achievement and traditional teacher education programs, certification status, and mentoring and induction programs. That means that teachers who have completed a traditional teacher preparation program, hold a teaching license, and have participated in an induction […]

How Long Before Duncan and the Media Speak Out Honestly? (by Sandra Stotsky)

The notion that Common Core’s college and career readiness standards are “rigorous” needs to be publicly put to bed by Arne Duncan, his erstwhile friends at the Fordham Institute, and the media. Two of Common Core’s own mathematics standards writers have publicly stated how weak Common Core’s college readiness mathematics standards are. At a public meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March 2010, physics professor Jason Zimba said: “the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.” Mathematics professor William McCallum told a group of mathematicians: “the overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.” What words don’t Duncan, […]

Common Core’s Cloudy Vision of College Readiness in Math (by Sandra Stotsky)

Common Core’s egalitarian tentacles are now slithering towards high school diploma requirements. In states that respond to a current prod to “align” their high school graduation requirements in mathematics with the academic level reflected in Common Core’s college-readiness mathematics standards, the mathematics coursework taken by our low-achieving high school students may indeed become stronger. But if such an alignment is not strategically altered, states may be unwittingly reducing other students’ participation in more demanding mathematics curricula and their academic eligibility for undergraduate STEM majors and internationally competitive jobs in mathematics-dependent areas. Common Core has carefully disguised its road to equally low outcomes for all demographic groups, and many state boards of education may quickly follow up their unexamined adoption of […]

More Than One Fatal Flaw in Common Core’s ELA Standards (by Sandra Stotsky)

There isn’t just one fatal flaw in Common Core’s English language arts standards: its arbitrary division of reading standards into two groups: 10 standards for “informational” text and 9 for “literature” at all grade levels from K to 12. Based on these numbers, school administrators have told English teachers to reduce literary study to less than 50% of reading instructional time. And their interpretation of this 50/50 division in ELA reading standards has not been contradicted by the chief architect of Common Core’s literature standards, now head of the College Board, who has managed to confuse everyone by insisting that literature remains the focus of the English class. A second flaw is Common Core’s writing standards. They are an intellectual […]

What To Do Once Common Core Is Halted (by Sandra Stotsky)

What could states do once implementation of Common Core’s standards is halted? Most states are unlikely to want to return to the standards they once had, mainly because their boards and departments of education loudly claimed they were adopting more rigorous standards when they adopted Common Core. In most cases, they would be rightly accused of returning to equally non-rigorous standards. It will also be difficult for 45 state boards and departments of education to say to the public and their state legislators that Common Core’s standards are really not more rigorous than what they had because they will look foolish. How can they justify having voted to adopt Common Core’s standards and committing the state to huge future technological […]

Why Do They Lie? And Why Do Others Believe Them? (by Sandra Stotsky)

One of the most puzzling phenomena in recent years is the unquestioned acceptance by seemingly rational people of the many claims made by the proponents of Common Core’s standards. The claims have been made repeatedly despite the fact that they have been shown to be either lies or simply utopian hopes. So, what are the lies or the utopian hopes? And why do others repeat these lies or pie-in-the-sky claims about what these standards will achieve? First, we are regularly told that Common Core’s standards are internationally benchmarked. Joel Klein, former head of the New York City schools, most recently repeated this myth in an interview with Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal editor, during the first week in June. […]

Wanted: Internationally Benchmarked Standards in English, Mathematics, and Science (by Sandra Stotsky)

The many flaws in Common Core’s standards are finally beginning to be discussed in state after state, especially the damaging expectation that all American high school students should be prepared for college, whether or not they are willing or able to do the reading that college coursework requires.  The hidden problem with such an expectation is that it can be achieved on tests of college-readiness only when empty skills (e.g., find the main idea) are applied to non-demanding texts and when performance tasks are subjectively evaluated (e.g., how well does Jamie show “critical thinking” or collaborate with peers when solving a problem). That is why Common Core’s standards were intentionally not internationally benchmarked.  Other countries expect “college-ready” students to know […]

A stress on informational reading in the English class will not develop “critical” thinking (by Sandra Stotsky)

One of the sales pitches for Common Core’s English language arts standards is that a heavy diet of informational reading in the English class will increase “critical” or analytical thinking. But how are teachers and parents to know that black is white and freedom is slavery?   Reading researchers know there is absolutely no research to support the idea that increased study of “literary non-fiction” or “informational” texts in the English class will increase students’ level of analytical thinking.  No one tells us how reading “informational” texts could necessarily stimulate “critical” thinking better than literary reading–or stimulate it at all.  In fact, the opposite outcome is likelier: reducing the study of complex literature in the secondary English class to make way […]

Do “cold” readings of our historical documents “level the playing field”? (by Sandra Stotsky)

Two of the many bizarre ideas that the “chief architect” of Common Core’s English language arts standards has mandated in our “national standards” or told teachers outright are the notion that teachers should do “cold” readings of historical documents like the Gettysburg Address and that doing so “levels the playing field.”  Both ideas suggest the thinking of someone who has never taught in K-12.   Worse yet, they contribute to historical illiteracy. Aside from the fact that context-free reading was not developed or promoted by Yale English professors Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren as a reading technique for historical documents, no history or English teacher before the advent of Common Core would approach the study of a seminal historical document […]

Common Core Facts

Who developed Common Core’s standards? Three private organizations in Washington DC: the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve, Inc.—all funded for this purpose by a fourth private organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Shortchanging the Future: The Crisis of History and Civics in American Schools

The collective grasp of basic history and civics among American students is alarmingly weak. Beyond dispiriting test results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and other measures, poor performance in history and civics portends a decay of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for a lifetime of active, engaged citizenship.

The Rise and Fall of the Study of American History in Massachusetts

Across Massachusetts public schools, history teachers believe that the study of U.S. history through the grades is in jeopardy if not in a poor state altogether.1 To judge from recent national tests, students are graduating from the state’s high schools as well as from high schools across the country with little understanding of our nation’s history, its founding principles, its major institutions, and the central figures and events that shaped who we are as a people.

How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk

Far from contradicting Common Core, these actions follow its injunction that, apart from “certain critical content for all students, including: classic myths and stories from around the world, America’s Founding Documents, foundational American literature, and Shakespeare . . . the remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to state and local determination.”

The Emperor’s New Clothes

The academic and economic implications of Common Core’s definition of college and career readiness standards in ELA and mathematics should be receiving extensive examination by every local and state school board in the country, by editorial boards in all major media, and by the U.S. Congress before cash-strapped states are coerced by the USED’s criteria for RttT funds, membership in test consortia, or Title I funds into committing themselves to Common Core’s standards. That they have not is perhaps the most serious matter of all.

Fair to Middling: A National Standards Progress Report

The purpose of this April 2010 progress report is to indicate how Common Core’s March drafts have addressed the deficiencies and limitations in its September and January drafts, and to spell out major areas needing further work. The analysis we present in this progress report shows that, although progress has been made, considerably more work is needed, particularly at the secondary level, to enable Common Core’s mathematics and English language arts (ELA) standards to be internationally benchmarked and to serve as the basis for valid and reliable high school exit level assessments.

Why Race to the Middle?

In short, the rush to move from 50 state standards to a single set of standards for 50 states in less than one year, as well as the lack of transparency in CCSSI’s procedures, have excluded the kind and extent of public discussion merited by the huge policy implications of such a move.

How to Strengthen K-12 Mathematics Education in Massachusetts

This position paper suggests how Massachusetts can strengthen K-12 mathematics education in its schools, drawing chiefly on the findings and recommendations presented in the final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (henceforth referred to as the Panel). The Panel’s report was released in March 2008 after two years of work and deliberation by seventeen researchers and scholars appointed by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.