Turns out Common Core is not STEM-friendly

Photo by Anissa Thompson

Photo by Anissa Thompson

“As we have pointed out, standardization is inherently designed for standard, not exceptional, achievement. Because statewide standards in Utah and other states, including Common Core, are of the type that lead to standardization, it is impossible to assert as a logical argument that any of these sets of standards is the ‘best,’ especially when no evidence shows any correlation between ‘good’ standards and student achievement.”

So we wrote in a July 2012 report, analyzing Utah’s involvement in the nationalized Common Core standards, in which we recommended the state exit Common Core and develop its own curriculum drawing from the best methodology and resources in the world.

It turns out, we were right to be concerned. In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Sandra Stotsky highlights growing concern that Common Core “math standards are too weak to give us more engineers or scientists.” Stotsky served as a member of the Common Core Validation Committee and the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

While everyone from President Obama to Suzanne McCarron, president of Exxon Mobil, have been advocating for more emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, it turns out Common Core was purposely designed not for STEM. Rather, it aims to “provide students with enough mathematics to make them ready for a nonselective college.”

Stotsky writes,

As Stanford mathematics professor James Milgram noted in “Lowering the Bar,” a report the two of us co-wrote for the Pioneer Institute in September, the Common Core deliberately leaves out “major topics in trigonometry and precalculus.” Contrast that with the status quo before the Common Core, when states like Massachusetts and California provided precalculus standards for high-school students. The implications of this are dramatic. “It is extremely rare for students who begin their undergraduate years with coursework in precalculus or an even lower level of mathematical knowledge to achieve a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area,” Mr. Milgram added.

 Why would Utah and 44 other states purposely adopt a system of education that lowers the quality of education and makes students less prepared to enter the vital STEM fields? Only they can answer that question, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the needs and interests of student learners were not top priority.

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