Problems with the Common Core explained


by David Safier

Anthony Cody, a blogger at Education Week and one of the founders of The Network for Public Education along with Diane Ravitch (and Tucson's own Robin Hiller) has written the best analysis of the problems with the Common Core I've read. First he wrote Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors, a long but readable breakdown of some of the weaknesses inherent in the concept. He asked people to find errors in his analysis. No one did, but naturally, some people disagreed with his conclusions. So he followed up with The Door We Open When We Defeat the Common Core.

I won't try to excerpt what he's written. This is for educators and others who are seriously interested in the Common Core, and pulling it apart would weaken what he has to say. I hope his posts aren't hidden behind a fire wall (most of the Education Week website is subscription only), because what Cody has written should be widely read.


  1. Cody is no heavyweight:

    Error #1: The process by which the Common Core standards were developed and adopted was undemocratic.

    Response: Are they good standards or not? Steve Jobs was a complete totalitarian yet he produced great products. Democratically produced standards have lacked quality, being both too low in expectations and too bloated in focus.

    Error #2: The Common Core State Standards violate what we know about how children develop and grow.

    Response: Absolutely no evidence behind this statement which is the opposite of the truth. Look at the algebra results in this country, 35% of our 8th graders take algebra, yet only 1% solve relatively simple prealgebra problems. The Common Core State Standards are based on the actual measured ability of our students.

    Error #3: The Common Core is inspired by a vision of market-driven innovation enabled by standardization of curriculum, tests, and ultimately, our children themselves.

    Response: This is an argument against all standards, not against Common Core State Standards. Reading by third grade, knowing your multiplication tables, developing good writing skills, these standards don’t standardize our children, they prepare our children to blossom in a thousand different directions in this great nation. Failure to achieve these standards, standardizes our children in a mold of failure.

    Error #4: The Common Core creates a rigid set of performance expectations for every grade level, and results in tightly controlled instructional timelines and curriculum.

    Response: Good schools don’t run under tightly controlled instructional timelines and curriculum. Only if you run a poor school that is incapable of actually achieving these standards.

    Error #5: The Common Core was designed to be implemented through an expanding regime of high-stakes tests, which will consume an unhealthy amount of time and money.

    This could be said of any set of standards and could be false of any set.

    Error #6: Proficiency rates on the new Common Core tests have been dramatically lower—by design.
    The false pat on the back of the previous standards did not do any favors for parents whose children depart for remediation classes in colleges and universities while stacking up college debt.

    Error #7: Common Core relies on a narrow conception of the purpose of K-12 education as “career and college readiness.”

    Preparing a student for success in Career and college is a huge accomplishment – it is unspeakable vile to besmearch such a fundamental mission of k12 education.

    Error #8: The Common Core is associated with an attempt to collect more student and teacher data than ever before.

    “is associated with” really? Many great schools are data driven as they attempt to customize teaching for each student. Often, only the data can illuminate the confusions that students are experiencing.

    Error #9: The Common Core is not based on any external evidence, has no research to support it, has never been tested, and worst of all, has no mechanism for correction.

    Common Core is based on a careful analysis of the skills that students have and the skills that students lack. Just look at the criticisms. We have tested the concept of high standards and found that they work, often spectacularly. The mechanism for correction is the same mechanism that created the standards.

    Error #10: The biggest problem of American education and American society is the growing number of children living in poverty.

    The Common Core Standards don’t cure cancer, but they can help alleviate the effects of poverty by improving the academic achievement of low income and minority students.

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