June 4, 2015 Globe Presentation: Common Core Standards are both Inferior and Age-Inappropriate

What’s really sad is that, after all the time, energy, and money that have been spent on standards, they will have little to no effect on student achievement. 

Diane Douglas has been hosting Town Hall "listening" events all over Arizona, giving the public a chance to come to the microphone and speak on whatever public school concern they have.  The hot topic is Common Core.  At the Globe, Arizona, event held on June 4, I was able to make some public comments.  This is the second of three. 

What about the Common Core standards themselves?  Aren’t they “rigorous”?  Won’t they prepare students to be college ready? 

The fact is Common Core standards are both inferior and age-inappropriate.

One stated purpose of the Race to the Top competition was to prepare more students for STEM study (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). 

To attain this goal, it is indisputable that a full Algebra I course must be placed in the eighth grade.  The National Mathematics Advisory Panel leaders of selective technology-focused universities agreed with this, and so did the Benchmarking for Success report that NGA and CCSSO used to justify Common Core in the first place.  If children are prepared to take Algebra I by the start of the eighth grade, then they can progress comfortably to calculus in the twelfth grade. 

However, the lead Common Core math writer, Jason Zimba, recently stated that not only does Common Core not prepare students for STEM studies, it doesn’t prepare them for admission to competitive private and public universities either. 

Unfortunately, Common Core cannot be “fixed” by simply dumping Algebra 1 in the eighth grade.  The reason is that Common Core introduces algebraic concepts far too early for 5 and 6-year old brains to grasp.  Solving problems through abstract or deductive reasoning doesn’t “match” the developmental state of young children.  Common Core puts them on a slowed-down progression that by eighth grade leaves them up to two years behind their peers in high-performing countries.   

In March 2010, before the final Common Core standards were released, over 300 experts in childhood development, including pediatricians, psychologists, teachers, and professors, urged the NGA to suspend the standards for grades K-3.  They advised that Common Core was “too much too soon” and not supported by research.

The NGA and the Common Core writers ignored their warnings and released the standards in June 2010.  Governors and state boards of education all over America, including Arizona, adopted them without question.

There was never a pilot test, not even on a small scale.  The “pilot test” was the one that was dropped in the laps of teachers and students on a massive scale in every state that adopted Common Core. 

It didn’t take long for problems to emerge.  Mary Calamia, social worker and psychotherapist serving parents, students, and teachers in 20 school districts in Suffolk County, testified to the New York State Assembly Education Forum:

“Young children are simply not wired to engage in the type of critical thinking that the Common Core calls for. That would require a fully developed prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is not fully functional until early adulthood. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking, rational decision-making, and abstract thinking—all things the Common Core demands prematurely.”

Child clinical psychologist Dr. Megan Koschnick stated that the Common Core standards that young children are expected to meet, e.g., to “collaborate,” “engage in multiple discussions,”  “express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly,” etc., might be appropriate for training a global workforce, but they are not appropriate learning standards for young children. 

The Common Core kindergarten standards call for 5-year old children to read “emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”

Among the top 12 countries in reading, ten begin formal instruction after age 6—not 5—and many begin close to age 7.  The long hours needed to accomplish this goal take away time better spent in developing oral language and providing rich experiences that will help with later comprehension of books. As children listen to and create stories, hear rich language texts, sing songs, poems and chants, their foundation for reading grows strong. This is especially vital for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Yet, teachers are being held accountable for student mastery of these standards on high-stakes testing, so they end up spending valuable classroom time drilling these inappropriate standards into these children.  

Dr. Megan Koschnick also stated that forcing children to meet standards beyond their capacity results in anxiety, frustration, and negative feelings about school, and they eventually disengage.  Such reactions are often misinterpreted as behavioral problems, and many such children are misevaluated as in need of remediation

Tom Loveless, Senior fellow of the Brookings Institute stated:

"The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement. The quality or rigor of state standards has been unrelated to state NAEP scores, Moreover, most of the variation in NAEP scores lies within states, not between them. Whatever impact standards alone can have on reducing within-state differences should have already been felt by the standards that all states have had since 2003."