The postmortems will roll out in a year or two, but it’s already clear Common Core is eking out its last gasps. Inside its mayhem lies opportunity.
If you’re glued to the trashy, monotonous 2016 horserace, just like the presidential candidates still insisting they will end Common Core you will have missed that the cornerstone of President Obama’s education policy has already become a tombstone. That’s right: Common Core is dead. The big postmortems will roll out in a year or two, but it’s already clear this education monstrosity is eking out its last gasps.
Not that many normal people paid much attention to the biggest shift in U.S. education for decades, to hear Buzzfeed tell it in the recent video below. To recap, Common Core is an organizing scheme that aims to control all of American education, from preschool through college. Its core is a set of testing and curriculum blueprints being used as a lever to get all of what kids learn in every subject and at every age into “alignment” with its centrally planned, academically low-quality, and one-size-fits-all mandates.
Common Core has by now not only failed academically, it has failed operationally. This is a horrific outcome. None of us who oppose Common Core are happy to be able to say “I told you so,” because it means our predictions that consultants would enrich themselves while mashing millions of children and teachers into chaos have come true.
Common Core’s failure should indict every single Common Core cheerleader and prompt a revival of genuine education reforms we’ve known for decades would actually help children but aren’t sexy to the consultant class that makes a living as “education innovators” (i.e. experimenting on children for fun and profit). Forgive my cynicism, but if Common Core taught me anything, it’s that the people running American education don’t learn from failure. Sorry, kids! Too bad you’re sitting ducks for people who like to experiment yet have the power to ruin your lives!
First—since it’s the most important, even though politics gets greater attention—let’s discuss the already visible failures of Common Core’s academic content. It includes the “art-centered” math the parents complain about in the Buzzfeed video (which substantive research has shown is less effective than traditional methods), but is far bigger than that.
At Best, Common Core Caused No Education Gains
Last week the Brookings Institution issued the preliminary autopsy in its annual major report on education. It finds that American children are receiving objectively worse academic instruction because of Common Core, in two major respects: In the increase in nonfiction their teachers are assigning, and in a nationwide decline in students taking algebra in eighth grade.
Further, it finds that Common Core has done nothing to help children learn more overall, which was one of its supporters’ major claims: “there also is no evidence that CCSS has made much of a difference during a six-year period of stagnant NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores.” NAEP is the nation’s highest-quality set of large-scale tests, used widely by researchers as benchmarks for American kids’ abilities over time. While younger students have made some small gains on NAEP since it began in 1992, high-school graduates since then have not improved one whit. Even though its supporters promised it would, Common Core isn’t helping.
Researcher Ze’ev Wurman looked at several other indicators of student achievement and found none have improved since Common Core went into effect. In fact, SAT and ACT scores are slightly down. Maybe this spring’s new, Common Core-aligned SAT will start covering for that by making the test easier (as it has every time it did a major test change).
Brookings’ report says one can never know for sure whether even a major policy change like Common Core is at fault for declining student achievement, since many different things affect education changes over the years and this one hasn’t been in place long, but says the present data suggests Common Core’s benefits to kids (such as they have been) have already peaked. The Obama administration foisted Common Core on states in 2010. Just five years later:
The 2015 NAEP scores were a political disaster for Common Core. Eighth grade math scores, for example, fell for the first time in NAEP’S 25 year history (down three points). Some observers were quick to point a finger at CCSS. That’s probably unfair. The analysis above indicates that, yes, nonadopters performed better than CCSS states, but only by declining less, not through improved performance. None of the states are setting the world on fire (emphasis added).
Did you get that? All the states are doing poorly. Non-Common-Core states are doing less poorly than Common Core states. Aren’t you glad states and the federal government have spent billions of dollars doing essentially nothing for six years? Don’t worry, though, because Common Core supporters are already beginning to suggest that we also dumb down NAEP. Don’t fix the problem, shoot the messenger. That’s coming up inside the Common Core politics and government standards.
Common Core Means We’re Flying Blind on Student Progress
Politically, Common Core is faring even worse. The trade publication Education Week reports that this spring just 20 states (plus DC) are using the federally jumpstarted Common Core tests that were supposed to cement Common Core in classrooms, after three years of utter chaos as they refused to work on thousands of computers and similar problems invalidated thousands of student test results.
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