The push to nationalize the content taught in public schools across the country should be of great concern to state leaders. The Common Core national standards effort represents a massive federal overreach into what is taught in local schools, further removing parents from the educational decision-making process, and likely to cost state taxpayers $16 billion over seven years just to implement.
As more details emerge about the content and quality of the Common Core national standards backed by federal funding and the Obama Administration, questions about the coherence, international competitiveness, and the college readiness level of the standards also loom. Many experts conclude that the math standards are vague and incoherent. Writing in Education Week, curriculum expert Grant Wiggins notes:
…the mathematics components of the Common Core State Standards Initiative are a bitter disappointment. In terms of their limited vision of math education, the pedestrian framework chosen to organize the standards, and the incoherent nature of the standards for mathematical practice in particular, I don’t see how these take us forward in any way.
Wiggins goes on to include several examples of hazy language in the standards, including “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them,” “reason abstractly and quantitatively,” and “use appropriate tools strategically.”
Wiggins isn’t alone in his skepticism. A recent Education Next article cites concerns from Professor William McCallum, one of the three authors of Common Core’s math standards, who has said that “overall standards wouldn’t be very high” and “not up to the standards of other nations.”
His opinion was supported by Jonathon Goodman, a professor at New York University, who also raised questions about the standards from an international comparison: “The proposed Common Core standard is similar in earlier grades but has significantly lower expectations with respect to algebra and geometry than the published standards of other countries.”
Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education, also pointed out that the Common Core fails to equal other international competitors in terms of required course load for college readiness:
The enrollment requirements of four-year state colleges overwhelmingly consist of at least three years of high school mathematics including algebra 1, algebra 2, and geometry, or beyond. Yet Common Core’s “college readiness” definition omits content typically considered part of algebra 2…they do not expect algebra to be taught in grade 8 and instead defer it to high school, reversing the most significant change in mathematics education in America in the last decade, supported by the 2008 recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, and contrary to the practice of our international competitors.
The content shortcomings bring more concern to an already frightening federal overreach. Spearheaded by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core national standards have been backed with federal funding, and the assessments were directly financed by the Obama Administration. Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers were conditioned on states’ adoption of common standards.
It’s one more reason state leaders should reject this federal overreach and work to strengthen their state standards. Ceding that authority to national organizations and Washington bureaucrats won’t improve academic outcomes and will be a costly loss of educational liberty.
Evan Walter is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm