Date: Aug 29, 2013 6:01 PM
Author: Jerry P. Becker
Subject: Fallacy of the Common Core Standards: No Evidence
From Diane Ravitch's blog [A site to discuss better education for
all], Saturday, August 24, 2013. See
The Biggest Fallacy of the Common Core Standards: No Evidence
By Diane Ravitch
Lately, I have noticed that defenders of the Common Core are smearing
critics as Tea Party fanatics and extremists. That is what Arne
Duncan said to the nation's newspaper editors last month, when he
claimed that opponents of the Common Core are members of "fringe
groups," people who don't care about poor kids, and people who
falsely accuse the federal government of having something to do with
the Common Core. When interviewed on PBS, New York State Commissioner
John King also said that the Tea Party was behind the criticism of
the new standards. [See
They would like the public to believe that there is no responsible,
non-political, non-ideological opposition to the Common Core
This is not true, and I wrote this piece to explain why reasonable
people have good reason to be concerned about the over hyping of the
I understand that there are good elements to the standards.
In many states, they may be better than existing standards. In
others, they may not.
But I don't see why they are being rushed into production without a
fair trial of their strengths and weaknesses.
No set of standards, no new product, emerges straight from the minds
of its creators without seeing how it works in the real world of
fallible human beings.
Until we see what happens to real children in real classrooms, the
"standards" are words on paper without meaning.
It is only when they are tried out by real teachers in real
classrooms with real children, when they are improved through trial
and error, that we will know how they work and whether they can be
I cross-posted this piece on Huffington Post so it would reach many
I print it here for your reaction and comment.
I invite you to open the link and leave comments on Huffington Post.
Boosters of the Common Core national standards have acclaimed them as
the most revolutionary advance in the history of American education.
As a historian of American education, I do not agree.
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core national standards,
and they are being implemented this year.
Why did 45 states agree to do this? Because the Obama administration
had $4.35 billion of Race to the Top federal funds, and states had to
adopt "college-and-career ready standards" if they wanted to be
eligible to compete for those funds. Some states, like Massachusetts,
dropped their own well-tested and successful standards and replaced
them with the Common Core, in order to win millions in new federal
Is this a good development or not?
If you listen to the promoters of the Common Core standards, you will
hear them say that the Common Core is absolutely necessary to prepare
students for careers and college.
They say, if we don't have the Common Core, students won't be
college-ready or career-ready.
Major corporations have published full-page advertisements in the New
York Times and paid for television commercials, warning that our
economy will be in serious trouble unless every school and every
district and every state adopts the Common Core standards.
A report from the Council on Foreign Relations last year (chaired by
Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice) warned that our national security was
at risk unless we adopt the Common Core standards. [See
The Common Core standards, its boosters insist, are all that stand
between us and economic and military catastrophe.
All of this is simply nonsense.
How does anyone know that the Common Core standards will prepare
everyone for college and careers since they are now being adopted for
the very first time?
How can anyone predict that they will do what their boosters claim?
There is no evidence for any of these claims.
There is no evidence that the Common Core standards will enhance
equity. Indeed, the Common Core tests in New York caused a collapse
in test scores, causing test scores across the state to plummet. Only
31 percent "passed" the Common Core tests. The failure rates were
dramatic among the neediest students. Only 3.2 percent of English
language learned were able to pass the new tests, along with only 5
percent of students with disabilities, and 17 percent of black
students. Faced with tests that are so far beyond their reach, many
of these students may give up instead of trying harder.
There is no evidence that those who study these standards will be
prepared for careers, because there is nothing in them that bears any
relationship to careers.
There is no evidence that the Common Core standards will enhance our
How do we know that it will cause many more students to study math
and science? With the collapse in test scores that Common Core
brings, maybe students will doubt their ability and opt for less
Why so many promises and ungrounded predictions? It is a mystery.
Even more mysterious is why the nation's major corporations and
chambers of commerce now swear by standards that they have very
likely never read.
Don't get me wrong. I am all for high standards. I am opposed to
standards that are beyond reach. They discourage, they do not
But the odd thing about these standards is that they seem to be
written in stone. Who is in charge of revising them? No one knows.
When I testified by Skype to the Michigan legislative committee
debating the Common Core a couple of weeks ago, I told them to listen
to their teachers and be prepared to revise the standards to make
them better. Someone asked if states were "allowed" to change the
standards. I asked, why not? Michigan is a sovereign state. If they
rewrite the standards to fit the needs of their students, who can
stop them? The federal government says it doesn't "own" the
standards. And that is true. The federal government is forbidden by
law from interfering with curriculum and instruction.
States should do what works best for them. I also urged Michigan
legislators to delay any Common Core testing until they were
confident that teachers had the professional development and
resources to teach them and students had had adequate time to learn
what would be tested.
Do we need national standards to compare the performance of children
in Mississippi to children in New York and Iowa? We already have the
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which has been
making these comparisons for 20 years.
Maybe I am missing something. Can anyone explain how the nation can
adopt national standards without any evidence whatever that they will
improve achievement, enrich education, and actually help to prepare
young people - not for the jobs of the future, which are unknown and
unknowable - but for the challenges of citizenship and life? The
biggest fallacy of the Common Core standards is that they have been
sold to the nation without any evidence that they will accomplish
what their boosters claim.
Across the nation, our schools are suffering from budget cuts.
Because of budget cuts, there are larger class sizes and fewer
guidance counselors, social workers, teachers' assistants, and
Because of budget cuts, many schools have less time and resources for
the arts, physical education, foreign languages, and other subjects
crucial for a real education.
As more money is allocated to testing and accountability, less money
is available for the essential programs and services that all schools
Our priorities are confused.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244