OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Boston, MA) National mathematics standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia that supporters say are designed to make high school graduates “college- and career-ready” and improve the critical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline do not prepare students to study STEM or even be admitted to a selective four-year college, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards end after Algebra II,” said James Milgram, professor of mathematics emeritus at Stanford University.  “They include no precalculus or calculus.”  Professor Milgram co-authored “Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM with Sandra Stotsky, professor of educationemerita at the University of Arkansas.

At a 2010 meeting of Massachusetts’ Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Professor Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the math standards, said the standards, known as Common Core, prepare students “for the colleges most kids go to, but not for the college most parents aspire to,” and added that the standards are “not for selective colleges.”

U.S. government data show that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area.  Moreover, students whose last high school math course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 percent chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.

In 2010, William McCallum, another lead writer of Common Core’s math standards, said “The overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s competitive grant program, Race to the Top, requires states to place students admitted by their public colleges and universities into credit-bearing (non-remedial) mathematics (and English) courses if they have passed a Common Core-based “college readiness” test.  The authors argue that selective public colleges and universities will likely have to lower the level of their introductory math courses to avoid unacceptably high failure rates.

“It’s astonishing that 46 boards and departments of education adopted Common Core’s ‘college- and career-ready’ standards without asking the faculty who teach math at their own higher education institutions to do an analysis of Common Core’s definition of college readiness,” Stotsky said.

Professors Milgram and Stotsky were members of Common Core’s validation committee, which was charged with reviewing each successive draft of the standards, but they both refused to sign off on the academic quality of the national standards.

Pioneer’s comprehensive research on Common Core national education standards includes:  Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade; The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers; National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards; and A Republic of Republics:  How Common Core Undermines State and Local Autonomy over K-12 Education. Recent national media coverage includes op-eds placed in The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard.

You can read the paper below:

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  1. Bob, this paper was written by the math experts invited by the Common Core to validate the math standards. They couldn’t stomach how bad the standards were and couldn’t be pressured to accept it. If you did some more research, you would see liberals and conservatives from both sides of the spectrum up in arms over Common Core. But of course, you are posting purely from your political stereotypes and perhaps not as a someone with school age children who are going to be forced to go through this stuff (and also to have their lives recorded in the $100M federal database). If the “kids can do what they want,” why are they forced to go through common core? You agree then that kids, schools and states should be able to opt-out of common core? Without losing the federal money in the process?

    1. I have zero concern for Common Core and my children. I’m more concerned they are taught by quality teachers. CC is just a general set of standards to help guide curriculum development, a good teacher will adopt bits of CC that are good and ignore bits that are bad.
      The concept of CC is good, I support it because it allows for equitable state-to-state comparisons of performance. I also have zero doubt there are pieces of CC that are ridiculous. You’re right about my posture, it happens with every g-d topic imaginable: the gov does something, the right wing wants to blow it up with nukes rather than use reason to improve it and work on it. Just once I’d like to see the right engage a ‘campaign for improvement’ rather than a ‘campaign for destruction’. You can call it a stereotype, and sometimes stereotypes are true. Regarding the right, the stereotypes are almost always true. All I’ve seen is a campaign of opposition from the right, with CC and every other program/policy they choose to engage with. No, states should not be able to opt-out, and they should lose federal money if they do. A federal standard by which to measure and compare each state is a good thing. Nothing will stop a state from expanding their standards internally if they find CC inadequate.

  2. You clearly didn’t read or comprehend the paper or apprehend its purpose. Oh, now I see that OC below has a valid response. I concur with him.
    It should not be a surprise that concludes that part of Common Core is severely lacking; but this study says nothing about the fundamentals of Common Core, only the math standards.

Comments are closed.

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