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.