U.S. Student Test Scores Plummet Again in Year 4 of Common Core

November 7, 2019

by Karen R. Effrem, MD


If there was any doubt that the Common Core standards have been harmful to American academic achievement, that doubt should be erased by the 2019 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Nation’s Report Card.

NAEP results have been stagnant or declining since the full implementation of the standards was mandated in 2015. As stated by Joy Pullman at The Federalist:

For the third time in a row since Common Core was fully phased in nationwide, U.S. student test scores on the nation’s broadest and most respected test have dropped, a reversal of an upward trend between 1990 and 2015. Further, the class of 2019, the first to experience all four high school years under Common Core, is the worst-prepared for college in 15 years, according to a new report [on the ACT college entrance exam].

Although some states like Florida and Massachusetts did better overall in 2017 than most states that stagnated or declined, there were still achievement gaps between white and black students and or white and Hispanic students. These gaps have not improved and in some cases have been growing worse since Common Core implementation in 2015, whereas before that they had been narrowing. (For specific data, see pp. 4-5 and pp. 12-13 at this link.) Florida also had the advantage of having the American Institutes for Research (AIR) for its state test vendor, which happens to be the same company that writes and validates the NAEP.

In 2019 however, even Florida, Massachusetts and several other states that had done relatively well in 2017 showed significant overall declines, especially in reading. According to the NAEP report, 4th grade reading scores declined in 17 states, with the overall score down two points from 2017. In 8th grade reading, scores declined in 31 states, with the overall score down four points since 2017. In math, the overall scores were up one point in 4th grade and down one point in 8th grade. And as one state example, several of Florida’s previously mentioned achievement gaps have continued to widen. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called the results “devastating” in a statement.

This of course is the exact opposite of what America was told by Common Core apologists and proponents like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, tech mogul Bill Gates, Common Core English standards co-author David Coleman, and most of the crew from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. We were promised “higher,” “rigorous,” and “internationally benchmarked” standards that would make American students “college and career ready.” These trends in the NAEP scores — as well as previous research by a pro-Common Core group — have proven all of that to be wrong, if not terribly deceptive. This experiment perpetrated on our children has been a colossal failure.

Also to be expected is that the apologists mentioned above are blaming everything but Common Core. Things like funding decreases tied to the Great Recession and socioeconomic factors are blamed. Bush’s foundation is saying that the expectations are not high enough and must be raised by tying state test scores to NAEP proficiency levels. Yet, this has been totally debunked by experts (also discussed here). NAEP proficiency levels have nothing to do with reality and grade level performance on state tests. Besides, states that did do that still had lower scores on the 2019 NAEP.  

The ACT college readiness report showing that the first high school graduating class to have suffered all four years under Common Core is the least prepared in the last fifteen years recommends that emphasis be given to teaching the “whole child.” This is a euphemism for fuzzy, subjective social emotional learning (SEL) that de-emphasizes academics and promotes government-directed and controversial attitudes, values and beliefs that have little to no research base behind them and the assessment of which is very dangerous to privacy and freedom of conscience. SEL was integrally incorporated into the Common Core standards as admitted by numerous national education organizations.

Some states like Florida and Georgia are working to remove Common Core from their states, and those efforts must absolutely be supported. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition has put together a list of national expert recommendations backed by research and references for standards to replace Common Core. And here are condensed recommendations on math.

This educational malpractice must cease and parents must do everything they can to protect their children. As shown in thousands of studies, including the Coleman Report, it is the family that is the primary influence on children’s academic achievement. Our children’s and the nation’s future depend on getting education right.


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

10 comments on “U.S. Student Test Scores Plummet Again in Year 4 of Common Core”

  • Orquidea Wilcox says:

    I have been an educator for 37 years and I believe that the “social promotion” has a lot to do with the decline. Students and more importantly parents know that no matter what level of proficiency, or lack of, students “achieve” they will be going on to the next grade level. No consequences of any kind for lack of work or responsibility or poor behavior for that matter. No summer school. No retake of any class. There are very few students, and people in general, who will do their best without a tangible motivation or consequence. When students could get retained in the past, parents came to conferences, worked with their kids at home and did their best. Now we cannot even getting them to sign poor performance form. We can keep changing the standards and the curriculum on a yearly basis but if the parents and students do not care, it will be impossible to force
    them to learn.

    • Charles Hoffman says:

      I am 73. Just made it out of high school but still accepted in premed. I had a college phd refuse me an A for lack of a tenth of a percent. Did me a favor and society. Stand up teachers, professors and Phd’s.

  • Orquidea Wilcox says:

    I have been an educator for 37 years and I believe that the “social promotion” has a lot to do with the decline. Students and more importantly parents know that no matter what level of proficiency, or lack of, students “achieve” they will be going on to the next grade level. No consequences of any kind for lack of work or responsibility or poor behaviir for that matter. No summer school. No retake of any class. There are very few students, and people in general, who will do their best without a tangible motivation or consequence. When students could het retained, parents came to conferences, workwd with their kids at home and did their best. Now we cannot even getting them ti sign poor performances forms. We can keep changing the standards and the curriculum on a yearly basis but if the parents and students do not care, it will be impossible to force
    them to learn.

  • James T Long says:

    Year FOUR??

    It’s closer to year ten there, chief. Early on his campaign, Trump threatened to fire the entire Department of Education because of Common Core!

  • Margaret Fulgieri says:

    They can call it Common Core, The Next Generation, The New Generation, The New …., the problem lies with the system. Anyone who is teaching can tell you that the curriculums are too overloaded. Students are not able to absorb and master the skills because it is too much material. We are constantly moving on because teachers have to cover the curriculum. Suggested strategies cannot be implemented due to time constraints.

  • Jim Carnine says:

    I understand that Common Core is now lowering their evaluation standards so their outcomes will bemore palatable.

    Establishing the Dept of Education in D.C.was a colossal failure, even having another set of expensive bureaucracy at the state level is terrible. The district level may have a little merit but the expense of it all is mind shattering.

  • Carlos Rodrigues says:

    You, my dear lady, hsve covered the whole complete spectrum
    Without a balanced family there is what we have
    Thank you Dr.Effrem

    • jk1050 says:

      Yes, studies show that children raised in same-sex married familes have the best academic outcomes. I agree! Balanced families work!

  • Larry Ellis says:

    I am a retired middle school counselor, having retired in 2015. I witnessed the decline of academic rigor decline over the course of my 30 year career. The dumbing down of public education standards has been ongoing for decades and has only been increasingly sped up since the ” No Child Left Behind Report ” was released back in the 80’s. And when education elitist implemented Common Core I could immediately see it dumbing down the curriculum and causing the teachers to teach to the tests. Absolutely hurting the students and diminishing the teachers desire and creativity for teaching. The federal government and liberal establishment has been methodically working for decades to bring our educational system to this point. Public education is producing sheeple as opposed to critically thinking adult people. Our only hope is that parents around the nation will boldly stand up to protest to take back their children’s education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *