This post was co-authored by Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project.
Proponents of the Common Core national standards have claimed from the beginning that a major goal of the initiative is to reduce the “achievement gap” between white and minority students. Common Core test scores in California and New York suggest that the opposite is occurring. And now we have confirmation from what could be called the premier Common Core state in the country – Kentucky.
Prompted by an education establishment enamored of the progressive theories underlying Common Core (as well as by federal Race to the Top bribe money), Kentucky was the first state to adopt the national standards. In fact, formal adoption occurred before even the draft standards were issued, much less the final standards. The state fully implemented the standards and began administering the aligned state assessments during the 2011-2012 school year.
Kentucky thus has the nation’s longest experience with Common Core, and its results may be a bellwether for the rest of the country. Especially for minority students, the early signs are troubling.
Kentucky just released its 2014-2015 eighth grade scores on the EXPLORE and PLAN college-readiness tests. Those tests are aligned with the ACT college-entrance examination and have a long, reliable history of assessing college-readiness. These Kentucky scores are perhaps the best indicator anywhere in the nation of the effect of Common Core teaching.
And the news is bad. As explained by Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute, “In every single case [in all tested subjects (English, math, reading, and science)] the white minus black achievement gaps for both EXPLORE and PLAN have increased since Kentucky adopted Common Core aligned state tests in the 2011-2012 school year.” Since 2011-12, the smallest EXPLORE achievement-gap increase was 1.1 percent for English, and the largest increase was 3.7 percent in math. PLAN’s smallest gap increase was a change of 0.4 percent in math, with the largest at 2.7 percent in English.
Even more dismal are the percentages of black students meeting EXPLORE and PLAN benchmarks. In five of the eight categories (each test includes four subjects), black student performance declined from the 2012 test results. In two of the other three categories, performance increased only slightly over previously deplorable scores, and in the third, it remained the same.
The results from Kentucky – the state that is further down the Common Core road than any other – strongly suggest that Common Core is hurting the very students it was supposed to elevate.
Innes sums it up: “EXPLORE and PLAN show Kentucky is grossly leaving its major minority population behind and the situation is generally worse now than when Common Core started. After 25 years of expensive education reform efforts in Kentucky, only around one in ten black students is getting the math education needed, and only about one in five is getting the even more critical reading skills that are essential for almost any career today. These numbers are a disgrace.”
Why is this happening? What is it about Common Core that disproportionately harms minority students?
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APP Education.