July 14, 2013 Updated: July 14, 2013 at 8:55 am
Heated debate surrounds the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for K-12 education. Among those who oppose the CCSS are notable subject-matter experts and educational authorities who have an insider's view. They support high-quality research-based educational standards that are adequately field tested. However, these experts and other knowledgeable opponents have compelling concerns about the Common Core's deficiencies and assert that the CCSS are not ready for wide-spread implementation.
The "very low expectations" in the Mathematics Core Standards caused the only math expert on the official Validation Committee for the Common Core to withdraw his support: Dr. James Milgram, Stanford math professor emeritus, has broad experience in developing and reviewing standards.
Citing "extremely serious failings" of the math standards, he upholds that they are not internationally benchmarked as claimed (correlated to practices of high-performing countries), but are weak in Algebra I, Geometry, and "cover very little content for Algebra II and none of any higher level course." He asserts that by seventh grade, students will already be two years behind their counterparts in high-achieving countries. He refused to sign the validation report for the final Core math standards.
Likewise refusing to sign the final report is another member of the Validation Committee for the Common Core, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an English Language Arts (ELA) content expert and professor at the University of Arkansas Department of Educational Reform. Dr. Stotsky describes how the Committee members were not allowed to share suggestions with each other to improve the standards, and that their questions about the research basis for dubious components were never answered.
Dr. Stotsky writes extensively about the Core's "serious flaws": lack of rigor; the negligible knowledge required for students ("empty skills"); how they do not prepare students for college; how they reduce the opportunity for students to truly learn critical thinking skills; the lack of international benchmarking; and the lack of research that supports the standards, and more.
Dr. Diane Ravitch, renowned historian of education and research professor at New York University, shares many of those concerns. A former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, Dr. Ravitch supports having voluntary national standards and remained neutral to the Core for several years. Last February she wrote her coming-out article, "Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards."
A further contention of Dr. Ravitch's involves the adoption process: "the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation." She relates how some states have been pressured to replace their well-tested, highly regarded, superior standards with inferior Core standards.
These educational specialists are not alone in their measured, careful analysis of the Core's "serious failings" in the Math and ELA standards. The best practices for adopting any educational standards should include expert review that gives the authors power of revision to address the weaknesses before the standards' implementation is cast in stone. As Dr. Stotsky states, the Core "must be revised - or abandoned."
Elizabeth Berg is principal of James Irwin Charter Elementary School.