The Pioneer Institute released a report co-written by Mark Bauerlein, R. James Milgram, and Jane Robbins this week that reviews Massachusetts new academic standards. You don’t have to guess at their general opinion when you see the title – Mediocrity 2.0: Massachusetts Rebrands Common Core ELA & Math.
The report outlines how K-12 education in Massachusetts declined after they replaced their superior pre-2010 academic standards with Common Core:
How has the move from excellent standards and tests to Common Core and its aligned tests worked out? One of the best ways to answer that question is to rely on the NAEP assessment (the so-called “nation’s report card”), which is administered every two years in reading and math to a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders in every state. Between 2011 and 2015 (the Common Core era), Massachusetts was one of 16 states in which NAEP reading scores actually fell, and one of 39 states in which NAEP math scores fell. From 2013 to 2015 alone, Massachusetts scores declined in three of the four testing categories.
Evidence of a decline in the performance of Massachusetts students is also observable on the SAT. Since 2006, those scores have dropped by nine points in reading, 10 points in math, and 15 points in writing. Thee writing decline, especially, suggests that the reorientation of English class from classic literature to the “informational texts” of Common Core may be bearing bitter fruit.
Massachusetts in 2016 changed its assessment to an MCAS-PARCC hybrid. They also started on a review and revision of their standards which included Common Core.
They note the new language arts and literacy framework still has the same weakness that Common Core had, it lacks domain knowledge:
Apart from the verbal skill deficiencies that high-school students in Massachusetts fail to overcome during their years in the classroom, the great danger of the current English Language Arts curriculum is that students leave high school with meager domain knowledge. If the standards that are to guide the curriculum do not broach the actual, specific subject matter of the discipline, then the education of students in English falls short. Students may acquire certain skills—the current standards are broken up into Reading, Writing, Language and Speaking/Listening, which each have their skills side— but their knowledge of literature, language, and criticism never develops.
We raise the issue because this is what we see in the 2010 standards and even more so in the new ones. The skills elements in the four areas are solid, but not the knowledge areas.
They note there are four major drawbacks to the new standards:
- There is an absence of philology (and therefore of phonetics, lexicology, and references to historical events).
- The new framework lacks English and world literary history.
- The new framework displaces important civic-literary historical writings
- It denies of one of the prime instructions that English used to claim, namely, the recognition of the great, the good, and the mediocre.
They then looked at the math standards:
This analysis focuses on the two major areas that students need to learn in grades one through eight: basic arithmetic, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, ratios, rates, percents, and proportions…
….The finding was that—aside from a tiny number of added phrases that do not impact the mathematical content in the arithmetic, ratio, rate, percent, and proportion standards in any way—the new document is identical to the, clearly failed, previous one.
Before they provided an analysis they wanted to state that there is no such thing as 21-Century Mathematics:
Before the main analysis can be presented, it is necessary to discuss the idea promulgated by proponents of the Common Core that there is such a thing as 21st- mathematics, such that the mathematics learned by students even 30 years ago is now obsolete. Their claim is that this 21st-century math is focused on problem-solving so that the main focus of instruction should be on the generalized subject of problem-solving.
The truth is radically different. ere is no such generalized subject, and the main objective of math has always been on its use as a crucial tool in solving problems not only in mathematics but in the sciences and any other precisely de ned subject of human endeavor. But in practice, one finds that before problem-solving can begin in any area, the person attempting it has to know as much as possible about that area and the mathematics that most likely will be necessary….
….Even the mathematics that was developed over 2,000 years ago is as essential (and correct) today as it was then. But there are two subjects in mathematics that have become far more important today than they were previously: 1) algorithms and computers, and 2) statistics and data analysis. therefore, these subjects should be covered adequately in the current document—which, of course, is not only not the case, but is as far from actually happening as possible.
Their analysis of the new math standards came to a troubling conclusion:
By eighth grade, the new Massachusetts math standards are at least three full years behind actual expectations in countries such as Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, and the other highest-achieving countries in the world in the most important mathematics the students are expected to learn. Further, if these standards continue to be faithfully followed for the rest of these students’ K–12 experience, the students will be even more than three years behind.
Read the whole report below: