Here’s What States Should Do to Really Get Rid of Common Core

June 5, 2019

by Karen R. Effrem, MD


At the end of last week’s column discussing yet another study demonstrating the colossal academic failure of the Common Core standards in math and English Language Arts (ELA), I said the following:

All of this shows that the January 31st executive order of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to eliminate Common Core from the Sunshine State and the more recent decision by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to pursue the same goal are extremely important and correct. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, in consultation with multiple national experts, has just released a list of recommendations with detailed documentation to help both states achieve this critical and laudable goal. More details will follow shortly.

Here is that promised detail. The recommendations common to both subjects are offered first, followed by those specific to math and then to English language arts (ELA). Discussion of each recommendation accompanied by extensive references follows after the recommendations in the full document. Although recommendations and accompanying references in both of these documents are geared toward Florida and Governor DeSantis’ executive order, the recommendations here are generalized for any state.

Recommendations Common to Mathematics and ELA

1.) The best solution would be to review and adopt one of the best pre-Common Core sets of standards for English Language Arts and math as discussed for the subject specific standards. This would stop the academic decline seen across America and for the U.S. in international comparisons.

2.) Any statewide standards review should reject efforts to “tweak” or “fix” the current Common Core-based standards, but instead remove the entire set of these systemically inferior, deficient, and in some cases experimental standards and use the standards of one of the high performing states or countries listed in the subject-specific recommendations below as the basis for a review.

3.) The premises of the Common Core are fundamentally defective. Having the public comment on individual standards implies that the standards need to be tweaked, or adjusted, at specific passages. It will thus likely lead to a repeat of the rebranding that has occurred across the nation. Public comment on individual standards will not fix the systemic sequential flaws of the current math standards nor address needed content that is not present in the standards for either subject. Intentionally or not, constraining comments in this manner limits the ability of parents and other citizens to make broader points about the standards and gives the impression that public input is not really welcome.

4.) Completely reject “social-emotional learning” or “21st Century” psychosocial skills in the standards, such as “grit/perseverance” or a “growth mindset.” Both the math and the ELA standards are supposed to be and have been portrayed as rigorous academic content standards, and should focus on subject-matter academic content. The research supporting such fuzzy standards is unreliable and some of it borders on fraudulent.

5.) Prominently include, especially for review of the high school standards, content experts (e.g., professors of mathematics, engineering, and physics as opposed to professors of mathematics education) in the subject matter standards for final review. Some of the experts reviewing the standards for younger students should have strong abilities in child development to make sure that new standards are developmentally appropriate, a glaring problem with Common Core.

Recommendations for the Mathematics Standards

1.) Standards that could be reviewed and offered include those of high performing states prior to Common Core — California (1997), Indiana (2006), Minnesota (2007), or Massachusetts (2000-2004) — or countries, such as Singapore and Japan. The Washington Exemplary Math Standards (WEMS), developed by a group of Washington math educators, parents, mathematicians, and science professionals, although not adopted by a state, could be offered as well, since they are a sterling example of high quality standards development after a consensus of the most important stakeholders in math education.

2.) Math standards should promote the actual performance of math problems in a much higher percentage than understanding, thinking about, or communicating about mathematical concepts, especially in the earlier grades, as is done in high performing nations like Singapore and Japan and in high performing states prior to Common Core, such as Massachusetts and California.

3.) To be of high quality, math standards must include necessary math content standards that Common Core fails to include, discussed in the full document.

4.) The basic math operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division should be taught as early as is developmentally appropriate using the standard algorithms, not delayed for up to two years, as is done in Common Core. Once children fall one or more years behind the optimal progression, it is very, very difficult for them to catch up.

5.) There should be no requirement for specific instructional strategies, especially some of the experimental ones used in geometry, with the exception that the standard algorithms for the basic arithmetic operations in the early grades should be mastered by all students.

6.) Ensure that new standards provide a reasonable progression of skill and knowledge attainment to the completion of a full Algebra 1 course by the end of 8th grade at the latest, as is done in other high performing countries. One of the reasons other countries are able to accomplish this acceleration is that they focus more exclusively on arithmetic and other skills referred to as “number sense” — including problem solving as well as computation — at the elementary grades and less skipping from one unrelated topic to another. This allows high-performing countries to spend less time reviewing skills because they are not forgotten as easily. This acceleration should be universally available to allow all students that want to pursue a STEM degree, but not universally required for those that do not want this college focus or simply need a little more time to truly master the content.

7.) All standards should be coherent because math is a sequential discipline and failure to teach the basics at the developmentally appropriate time will create confusion, frustration, inability to move on to higher levels of math, and loss of the love of learning.

Recommendations for the English Language Arts Standards

1.) Standards that could be reviewed and offered include those of high performing states prior to Common Core, including Massachusetts, Indiana, California and Texas as the basis for the review. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a national standards expert and member of the Common Core validation committee who refused to sign off on the final version of the standards, has made a version of the exemplary Massachusetts ELA standards available to states for free.

2.) Require a full, intensive, systematic program of phonics in the early grades.

3.) Craft standards that require a rich literature curriculum, with a heavy emphasis on the classics of Western civilization as the texts for the various ELA and literacy skills and knowledge in the standards, and ensure that the literary historical knowledge of students is assessed.

4.) Ensure that students read texts that prepare them for the complexity of college readings.

5.) Do not emphasize writing over reading.

6.) Teach entire works of literature instead of just excerpts.

7.) Ensure that the standards are developmentally appropriate.

8.) Decouple ELA standards from literacy in science, social studies and technical subjects.

The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition and I are grateful to Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Mark Bauerlein, and Dr. Duke Pesta for their direct involvement and recommendations in this document, as well as Dr. Louisa Moats for her seminal work on phonics and literacy education. We are also grateful to Ze’ev Wurman, Dr. Ted Rebarber, and J.R. Wilson for their direct work on the math portion of this document, as well as to Dr. James Milgram for his long and seminal work on math standards as a mathematician across the nation. Finally, we wish to acknowledge Emmett McGroarty’s involvement and advice from a policy perspective.

Let us hope that policymakers are finally ready to heed the expert and activist warnings to get rid of Common Core and truly improve academic education in America.


Dr. Karen Effrem and her husband have three children. She is trained as a pediatrician and serves as national education issues chairman for Eagle Forum and president of Education Liberty Watch.

Archive: Karen R. Effrem, MD

11 comments on “Here’s What States Should Do to Really Get Rid of Common Core”

  • Michael says:

    Pesta, Stotsky, Milgram, REALLY??
    They are motivated to end Common Core instead of improving education.
    I prefer people focused on productive discussions motivated to strengthen local instead of state control!
    An Education issue & you don’t want “professors of mathematics education” involved???
    WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON??

  • Michael says:

    Common Core follows this but it seems to cause the most complaints!
    “5.) There should be no requirement for specific instructional strategies, especially some of the experimental ones used in geometry, with the exception that the standard algorithms for the basic arithmetic operations in the early grades should be mastered by all students.”

  • Michael says:

    Seem to have ignored “A Nation At risk” claim of U.S. ed failure in 1983!
    Why have ppl ignored the impact of effective classroom instruction? Most complaints have been about classwork instead of standards!!
    Both Texas & Oklahoma included literacy in other subjects!

  • A J Cameron says:

    As long as ESSA, pushed by Lamar Alexander (R-TN), remains the law of the land, nothing can be done to prevent the continued destruction of education. There is a myth about ESSA returning control of education to the states. Yes, there is a provision that allows the individual states to adopt their individual standards, but all standards must be submitted to the federal government, for approval. The federal government will always find a way to prevent a state from implementing standards that are not destructive.

    I voted for DJT, more as a block of HRC, than believing he will MAGA. As long as Bush/Pence puppet, DeVos is atop education, the villianous & treasonous destruction of education will continue. Even if she is replaced, the globalists who control the puppet hut, a/k/a the White House, will ensure that a replacement will continue to destroy education w/in the U. S.

    A major reason this has occurred, & continues to occur, is that few are willing to escape their CCT (Conditioned, Conventional Thinking), to address the ultimate culprits who are actively engaged, behind closed doors, to steal total control & wealth from the global masses. Not only can what happened in Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, China, Romania, Cuba, etc., happen w/in the U. S., it has been, & is happening w/in the U. S.

    Everything is inextricably linked. There are no coincidences, & few, unintended consequences.

    • Michael says:

      Quite obvious you focused on conspiracy instead of fixing & improving education. That has been a fundamental flaw that insures continued U.S. ed failure!

  • Karen Bracken says:

    This all sounds great but how will this team address the fact that all the books published today, GED, SAT. ACT and yhe international PISA are all aligned to Common Core standards? How will this team address the ESSA plan FL had approved by DeVos and the threat of losing federal funds for not adhering to ESSA? Common Core aligned standarda are codified into federal law because of ESSA. Common Core is global. It was implemented, under the tutelage of Sir Michael Barber, in such a way that it cannot be undone. This is why they aligned all the books and tests (GED, ACT, SAT, PISA). There is do much more to this story. Barber and Pearson’s goal is to support and infiltrated the UN SDGs in all education (indoctrination) and they are winning. The big picture is much deeper than the standards. I remain skeptical and it would be wise for others not to be falsely blinded into thinking the problem will be solved by changing Florida’s standards.

    • Michael says:

      Great minds will ALWAYS succeed in spite of the weakness of education.
      “A Nation at Risk” pointed out U.S. failure in 1980s. I found European grads 2 years ahead of U.S. in 1970s. Other countries have central control that help make improvements possible. WHY are ppl like you concerned about who has control instead of strengthening local control & focusing on grad needs?
      Ed Standards are about influencing what is taught. Before standards, what & how to teach were controlled by PUBLISHERS!!
      I prefer local control that standards can provide.

    • Michael says:

      Common Core standards are only one specific path to its goals. Why not focus on the goals & allowing locals to choose from ANY standards & curricula instead of states?
      Start with discussions at ALL levels that always seem missing in the education community!
      Anti Common Core seems extremely limited with effort that supports GOV rather than local control!

  • Dr. Karen Effrem says:

    The answers to all of your questions are available in the accompanying heavily referenced document: http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/files/E0AB8B1E-5539-452A-88C4-CC7BE080FF20–970AB8BA-A96E-48B2-8497-8E0AA8DF44C3/recommendtions-for-fl-common-core-executive-order.pdf.

    Lists of both developmentally inappropriate and psychologically manipulative standards are available in the appendices of this document:
    http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/files/17118850-7282-444A-9A03-98E0B18082A2–885F5547-B1F3-4967-A304-4974D5D0994C/written-fl-standards-testimony.pdf

  • Mike says:

    I recommend Stop Common Core (Florida & others) focus on CONSTRUCTIVE efforts!! Wise to inform the public about the difference between classwork & standards that Anti Common Core seem determined to avoid!!
    Why mention excerpts in exemplars? Those are NOT intended to be reading lists!!
    Why AVOID literacy in other subjects?? Students need to read AND comprehend other subjects!!!
    Complaints about developmentally inappropriate have been CURRICULUM not standards! Which standards are inappropriate?

    • Karen Bracken says:

      Standards in themselves are bad. You cannot standardized learning or children. Prior to 1992 we did not have standards in America and we educated some of the greatest minds without them. Many high performing countries do not have standards. National one size fits all standards serve only one purpose….comparable,
      interoperable data collection.

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