What could be done to make the idea of a common core across 50 states make sense in this country? I finally have come up with what could be the solution that Governor Huckabee simply missed. We need to relabel them high school-ready standards and give the so-called “college readiness” tests based on them in grade 8, which is where they belong with respect to content and cut scores. The contents and pass scores for the current Common Core-based tests are a better indication of whether students can do authentic high school-level work in grade 9 or 10 than of college-level work.
A common core can make sense at the right grade levels. We need to compress most of the standards in both English language arts and mathematics from K-12 so that they can serve to make most students ready for high school by the end of grade 8 or 9. That is what we really need a common core of standards for, not for preparing all students for college when large numbers of young adolescents don’t want to go to college or can’t do college coursework and would prefer other options. Then, educators could work out alternative high school curricula and give young adolescents a choice of the kind of high school curriculum they are willing to commit themselves to.
At present, we are spending billions of dollars trying to send students to college and maintain them there who on average read at about the grade 6 or 7 level, according to Renaissance Learning’s latest report on what American students read, and to judge by the reading level of the books that colleges assign to incoming freshmen for summer reading. Nor can most of our high school graduates do much in mathematics beyond grade 8 compared with what students in high-achieving countries can do by the end of grade 8. Our aim would be to try to make sure that all students complete a basic education through grade 8 or 9. We could then provide them with upper secondary options that make sense to them (as do most countries, including Finland). Such a move would mean that this country no longer embarrasses itself by using invalid tests based on invalid K-12 standards written by charlatans.*
*Sandra Stotsky. “An Invalid Validation of the Common Core Standards” (pp. 55-72) and “How Did Charlatans Ever Get to Design National English Standards, and Why Would We Respect Them” (pp. 103-122). In K. Lombard (Ed.), Common Ground on Common Core. Madison, Wisconsin: Resounding Books, 2014. http://www.resoundingbooks.org/books/commonground/