The Problem With the Core Curriculum: It’s Not Rigorous Enough

No, it’s not the insane BOOGA! BOOGA! being promulgated by the right (one absurd myth is that students will be forced to wear biomonitors and cameras to prevent corporate exploitation*). Krugman is also correct in that the right, in general, fears the Common Core because it will prevent them from using schools to push their theocratic agenda. It’s also worth noting Diane Ravitch’s related criticism about the lowered test scores in New York–it’s not clear that the test used is that appropriate test (why would you test eighth graders for competency in tenth grade math and expect them to do well?).

But here’s my problem with the Common Core curriculum standards–they’re not rigorous enough. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating–Massachusetts’ core curriculum, used statewide, is harder and better than the Common Core. The Common Core actually is a dumbing down of the Massachusetts curriculum (boldface mine):

The far more serious criticism of the standards is that they are academically inferior to the existing standards in several states and the even higher standards in many countries whose students outperform ours. Ze’ev Wurman, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education, has offered extremely cogent critiques of the math section of the Common Core standards, pointing out that they fall short of the best international benchmarks and don’t require more than one year of algebra for high school graduates. Sandra Stotsky, a curriculum specialist and one of the drafters of Massachusetts’s important 1993 education-reform act, has similarly noted shortcomings in the English Language Arts section of the standards.

In fact, many of the original Massachusetts reformers have argued correctly that the Common Core standards don’t aim as high as the standards that their state adopted in 1993 (see “The Massachusetts Exception,”). The Bay State would have done better by its students if it had said no to the Obama administration and stuck with its already excellent standards—which were also heavily influenced by Hirsch’s work. The sad fact is that even before Massachusetts switched to the Common Core standards, Governor Deval Patrick had embarked on a campaign to dilute the demanding 1993 reform.

In many states, the Common Core will be an improvement. But if you’re going to go through the trouble of doing this, why not do it better? Diluted standards won’t make it any easier to pass when the opposition believes the whole undertaking is part of a conspiracy.

Once again, as is often the case, we have reinvented the wheel and it is square. We could have just copied Massachusetts’ standards. When Massachusetts is treated as an independent country (and it’s larger in population than some of the European countries to which the U.S. compares itself), it has one of the best educational systems in the world. Why not stick with what works? Certainly, we shouldn’t dumb the standards down.

Of course, now that this has become a battle between the Tea Buggerers and the Coalition of the Sane, the educational outcomes will be ignored.

But it’s not like we’re dealing with childhood development, so why worry?

*There is a study that uses these devices in a small sample of classes to determine how students act and react to different kinds of teaching. TEH SCIENTISMZ!!!

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