Common Core Doesn’t Add Up to STEM Success

Jan 3, 2014 by

common core ba appleThe high-school math standards are too weak to give us more engineers or scientists. 

 

 SANDRA STOTSKY

As a former member of the Common Core Validation Committee and the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I am one of the few mothers to have heard the full sales pitch for this latest educational reform, which has been adopted by 45 states.

I know the Common Core buzz words, from “deeper learning” and “critical thinking” to “fewer, clearer, and higher standards.” It all sounds impressive, but I’m worried that the students who study under these standards won’t receive anywhere near the quality of education that children in the U.S. did even a few years ago.

President Obama correctly noted in September 2012 that “leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today—especially in science, technology, engineering and math.” He has placed a priority on increasing the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these vital STEM fields. And the president’s National Math and Science Initiative is strongly supported by people like Suzanne McCarron, president of the Exxon Mobil Foundation, who has said she wants to “inspire our nation’s youth to pursue STEM careers by capturing their interest at an early age.”

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.Yet the basic mission of Common Core, as Jason Zimba, its leading mathematics standards writer, explained at a videotaped board meeting in March 2010, is to provide students with enough mathematics to make them ready for a nonselective college—”not for STEM,” as he put it. During that meeting, he didn’t tell us why Common Core aimed so low in mathematics. But in a September 2013 article published in the Hechinger Report, an education news website affiliated with Columbia University’s Teachers College, Mr. Zimba admitted: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304020704579278060483138096

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