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Common Core doesn’t prepare students for college, author finds

The Common Core standards have faced opposition for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most serious concern should be they appear to be inadequate when it comes to preparing students for college.

Joy Pullmann, managing editor of The Federalist and author of “The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids,” writes in an article at The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal that the controversial standards actually damage college readiness for American students:

Common Core is usually considered a national K-12 education initiative, but it is more than that. Federal and state regulations loop all the key parts of American education into Common Core, so it affects all levels of our education.

Unfortunately, Common Core undermines students’ intellectual growth (as I argue in my book The Education Invasion) and leaves many graduates unprepared for true college-level work, as opposed to career training.

There’s multiple reasons why this is the case, Pullmann argues. One is Common Core’s dedication to non-fiction, informational texts. Pullman writes this means students “will read fewer pages of Dickens and Dostoyevsky and more pages devoted to such informational material as federal administrative orders.” There’s consequences to that, she writes:

Common Core requires high-school seniors—those about to enter college or adult life—to read 70 percent nonfiction and 30 percent fiction in school. Younger children start out with a higher proportion of fiction, which gradually declines.

An early study discussing these requirements from Sandra Stotsky and Mark Bauerlein, both respected scholars, found that “college readiness will likely decrease when the secondary English curriculum prioritizes literary nonfiction or informational reading and reduces the study of complex literary texts and literary traditions.” That’s because research shows the students who are best prepared for college have the most experience with complex texts, mainly classic works of literature. No research finds a tie between college readiness and “informational” reading.

Common Core is also wrought with problems in math education, according to Pullmann:

Another flaw of Common Core is that it effectively eliminates pathways for students to take Algebra 1 in eighth grade, a necessary step for any student who wants to pursue a math or science college degree without remediation.

Between 2013 and 2015, the latest data available “shows that nationally, teaching Algebra in grade 8 dropped from 33 percent to 29 percent, the first drop in ten years,” writes former U.S. Department of Education policy advisor Ze’ev Wurman. That’s largely due to the fact that Common Core degrades the level of expected math completion for high school students to a partially completed Algebra II course. Entering college with that math preparation means having to take remedial courses before attempting calculus, the gateway to the STEM fields. As Sandra Stotsky wrote in this Wall Street Journal op-ed, Common Core’s standards “are too weak to give us more engineers or scientists.”

Since it was enacted in 2014, Pullman says it might be too soon to make overall conclusions on Common Core, but she notes “the early results of its curricular missteps are worrisome.”

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