Picture Credit - American Principles Project, Jane Robbins.

Jane Robbins is a Harvard educated attorney and a senior fellow with the APP Foundation, based out of Georgia. Robbins has modeled federal and state legislation designed to restore the constitutional autonomy of states and parents in education policy, and to protect the rights of religious freedom and conscience. This column was first featured on the Truth for American Education website and permission was obtained from the author to republish for AllOnGeorgia. This opinion piece reflects the views of the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia. 


This is getting tiresome. Every new round of test scores, whether from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or some other vehicle, shows either stagnation or decline in reading and math performance of American students. Every time this happens, we write about the now undeniable connection to the Common Core national standards, which began to be implemented in most states in 2010. The recently released and utterly predictable scores from ACT require yet another commentary on the decline of academic performance and college-readiness under Common Core.

How many times must this cycle repeat before someone in power is shamed into doing something about it?

Let’s look first at ACT’s college-readiness. According to Education Week, ACT correlates scores with students’ likelihood of earning Bs or Cs in credit-bearing college coursework. This year, only 40 percent of test-takers met the benchmark in math – the lowest level since 2004, and down from 46 percent in 2012. Significantly, unlike today’s students, the higher-scoring 2012 students had had little if any exposure to the glorious reforms of Common Core. As for reading, only 60 percent of test-takers met the college-readiness benchmark – the lowest level ever in the 16-year history of the benchmark.

As for the straight scores, Education Week breaks the news: “The average math score for the graduating class of 2018 was 20.5, marking a steady decline from 20.9 five years ago, and virtually no progress since 1998, when it was 20.6.” And reading? “[T]he scores in English didn’t offer much cause for celebration, either. The average score for the class of 2018 was 20.2, the same as five years ago, and down half a point from the English-score high in 2007.”

But the hits just keep on comin’. Average composite scores fell in all racial and ethnic groups except Asian-Americans. So Common Core has been a great leveler – just not in the way it was promised.

ACT’s chief executive officer was in a gloomy mood. “We’re at a very dangerous point. And if we do nothing, it will keep on declining,” he predicted.

So what should we do? Anyone with no Gates funding and two brain cells to rub together would conclude that a good start would be ditching Common Core lock, stock, and barrel – every “informational text,” every “close reading,” every “deeper conceptual understanding,” every “Lexile” measure, every “alternative algorithm,” every “real-world problem-solving,” every “rigorous” standard, every delay in standard algorithms, every delay in algebra, every “collaboration,” every “consensus,” all of it. Surely this will happen now.

Or maybe not. The progressive-education reformers have a lot invested in this experiment, and they’re guarding their interests. The immediate past-president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, an organization that bears much blame for pushing the kind of ridiculous math enshrined in Common Core, isn’t giving up the national standards without a fight. As reported in Education Week, this educrat “said that states have made solid progress adopting the good math standards, but the ACT results suggest that schools need to focus on improving curriculum and instructional practice to bring those expectations fully to life.”

Ah yes, that’s the ticket – the standards are great, so if we only improve “curriculum and instructional practice,” our kids may once again learn to read and work math problems.  This is certainly Bill Gates’s position, and after all he’s very rich and so knows of what he speaks. And this is basically the position of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which recently released a report singing the praises of Common Core. Rarely does such a report get disproven in only a few months. Unfortunate timing for Fordham.

For those keeping score at home, here’s the evidence of the raging success of Common Core:

  • From the 2015 NAEP scores: for the first time in over 20 years, declines in math performance across the board, stagnation or declines in reading performance, and decline in college-readiness benchmarks in both areas.
  • From the 2017 NAEP scores: no improvement from the dismal 2015 scores.
  • From the 2017 NAEP scores: increased “achievement gap” between white/Asian students and other minority groups.
  • From the 2017 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) test: U.S. students tumble from 5th in the world to 13th.

The protective edifice that has been erected around Common Core – by the federal government, state education establishments, private foundations, corporations, education consultants, and individual megalomaniacs – has got to go. If these defenders refuse to acknowledge the truth staring them in the face, they are elevating their own interests over those of American children.

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