Ahhh, the final chapter in our Common Core Mini Series; Common Core Part 3: Is Common Core Benefiting Children. First, I would like to take a moment and apologize that it has taken this long to get out to all of you. I decided I took a couple weeks off to allow time for additional research. This topic is extensive and very opinionated. So before I begin, I want to say thank you for your patience!
Is Common Core Benefiting our Children?
That is the questions that everyone is asking. We see the multitude of assessments, (for any non parents this is the new term for a test). We see the modeling worksheets from math classes nation wide, and the frustrated children, and parents, try to understand this new method and curriculum.
What we haven’t seen though, is an answer to; is and how this curriculum is making our children smarter, and adept in competing on an international stage?
To understand this we need to first look at what scores were prior to the implementation of Common Core. Internationally, based on a report put out by BBC, in 2015 the United States ranks 28th on the world stage for Math, Science and Reading at the among 15 year-olds. Unfortunately I was not able to find another BBC report for 2017, 2 years post implementation, however there is an organization named The World Top 20 Project that began ranking educational systems by country in 2017. Of course their grading system is not identical to BBC however it does give you something to compare to. According to the World Top 20 Report for 2017, the United States was now ranking 7th in overall education. At a high level it would appear we are seeing improvements. BUT what we must not forget is that this is not an equal comparison based on the parameters of the data used in the study.
A Closer Look
So let’s dive a little deeper into the information. One piece of data that i available to the general public is the National Scorecard. When you review all this test score data, you will see a few things. In the areas of math and science, across the board in the year of 2015 all test scores dropped. Given that this was the first year of implementation this is a reasonable drop. In 2017 the scores began to recover and the website claims this an improvement, and labels this year as significantly different. To be clear, their definition of significantly different, is any number greater than .05. Additionally it is important for you to know that the “improvement” in 2017 is only now bringing the test rates back up to their 2013 test scorecard ratings.
When you dive into the specific subjects and grade levels you can see 2 things, broken down by location of school (inner city, suburban, etc.) and ethnicity, the numbers do show improvement among the lower-income, minority students of all grade levels between the years of 2015 -2017. However there has not been any improvements when looking at the types of schools (public vs private) on a national level. In actuality there has been a 1-2 point decline in math and reading test scores in both public schools, and private catholic schools overall!
The Other Missing Pieces
One piece of the puzzle is the negative impact that this change is curriculum is playing on the other subjects. Due to the primary focus being put on Math and Reading, there are chunks being removed from the other subjects. Subjects like history, personal finance, economics, civics, and geography have had their curriculum condensed and simplified, if not entirely removed. All this to allow for a more streamlined math and reading program. And as a result, testing of these topics has not been performed since 2015 or earlier. So we have no way to gauge the impact it is having on our children’s education.
Another area that isn’t being widely discussed is in regards to the testing. If the curriculum was created by the test creators, as we discussed in Part 1 of the mini series, then are the results biased and skewed from the start? Or are the students being manipulated to regurgitate the information they will find on the test? Similar to someone stealing the answer key from the teacher of your next chemistry exam.
Overall Viewpoint of Common Core
So we come back to our initial question. Is Common Core benefiting our children?
While I see and appreciate the benefit of critical thinking, I think the loss of historical context alone, proves too detrimental to our country and our children. And while I see the benefit of having a seamless transition when student move across country, I have to question why it is wrong to have individualized thought and education?
From what I have learned throughout this mini series, I would have to say that the benefits have not been proven, and what small amounts are being seen do not outweigh the risks, for me personally.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
I will leave you with this thought. The quote above is so powerful, in that education can be a weapon for good or bad. So it is imperative we keep a watchful eye on the progress and changes that are coming. If common core isn’t benefiting children it up to us to change its direction before it’s too late.