Common Core’s Serious Flaws

Sandra Stotsky wrote a piece for the National Association of Scholars entitled “Revise or Reject: The Common Core’s Serious Flaws.”

Here is an excerpt she outlines some of the flaws:

First, the ELA standards have many flaws:

Common Core expects English teachers to spend at least 50 percent of their reading instructional time on informational texts at every grade level. It provides 10 reading standards for informational texts and 9 standards for literary texts at every grade level. (An informational text is a piece of writing intending to convey information about something, e.g., gravity, bicycles, nutrition.) However, there is no body of information that English teachers have ever been responsible for teaching, unlike science teachers, for example, who are charged with teaching information about science. As a result, English teachers are not trained to give informational reading instruction—by college English departments or by teacher preparation programs. They typically study four major genres of literature—poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction—and are trained to teach those genres.[1]

Common Core reduces opportunities for students to develop critical (analytical) thinking. Analytical thinking is developed in the English class when teachers teach students how to read between the lines of complex literary works. It is facilitated by the knowledge that students acquire in other ways and in other subjects because critical (analytical) thinking cannot take place in an intellectual vacuum. By reducing literary study in the English class, Common Core reduces the opportunity for students to learn how to do critical (analytical) thinking.[2]

Common Core’s middle school writing standards are developmentally inappropriate for average middle school students. Adults have a much better idea of what “claims,” “relevant evidence,” and academic “arguments” are. Most children have a limited understanding of these concepts and find it difficult to compose an argument with claims and evidence. This would be the case even if Common Core’s writing standards were linked to appropriate reading standards and prose models. But they are not. Nor does the document clarify the difference between an academic argument (explanatory writing) and persuasive writing, confusing teachers and students alike.[3]

Most of Common Core’s college-readiness and grade-level standards in ELA are empty skills. Skills training alone doesn’t prepare students for college-level work. They need a fund of content knowledge. But Common Core’s ELA standards (as well as its literacy standards for other subjects) do not specify the literary/historical knowledge students need. They provide no list of recommended authors or works, just examples of levels of “complexity.” They require no British literature aside from Shakespeare. They require no authors from the ancient world or selected pieces from the Bible as literature so that students can learn about their influence on English and American literature. They do not require study of the history of the English language. Without requirements in these areas, students are not prepared for college coursework.[4]

Common Core’s Mathematics standards also have serious flaws.

Common Core does not complete the teaching and use of the standard algorithms of arithmetic until grades 5-6.[5]

Common Core defers the study of many Algebra I concepts to grade 9. This makes it difficult for mathematically able students to complete an authentic Algebra I course in grade 8. As the 2013 NAEP results indicate, over 30% of 13-year-olds nationwide take Algebra I, a percentage that has been increasing regularly since 1970.[6]  This percentage will decrease rapidly if schools choose not to make it possible for able students in mathematics to accelerate in grades 5, 6, and 7 so they can take an authentic Algebra I course in grade 8 and if grade 8 students who have completed Algebra I are not allowed to take an end-of-course Algebra I test at the end of grade 8.

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