Common Core College and Career Standards: Big Fraud

Oct 6, 2015 by


Common Core College and Career Standards: Big Fraud

By Henry W. Burke



Common Core is a gigantic fraud!

Does calling a Ford a “Cadillac” make it a Cadillac?

Common Core’s advocates claim the Standards are College and Career Ready.

The Common Core Standards end in the middle of Algebra 2 with no Calculus or Trigonometry classes.

Incoming freshmen students whose last high school math course was Algebra 2 have less than a 40% chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.

Common Core is anything but College Ready!


There was a time when words meant something, but that time is disappearing.  When the federal education agency and the state education agency declare that their standards are “College and Career Ready” (when they are not), the declarations are a fraud

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has deemed that its Common Core Standards are College and Career Ready; and many state agencies make the same claim. Unfortunately, they have no hard data with which to back up their claims!


  1. Common Core’s Definition of College and Career Readiness

The Pioneer Institute published an excellent White Paper, “Lowering the Bar – How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM.”

In this informative report, the authors (Dr. James Milgram and Dr. Sandra Stotsky) carefully explain why Common Core does not prepare high school students for college and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  The authors should know – they are experienced educators and standards writers who served on the Common Core Validation Committee.


  1. Common Core Standards’ Definition of College and Career Readiness

The Common Core Standards were developed by the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve, Inc., as funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  NGA and CCSSO are the copyright owners of the Common Core Standards (CCS).  All three organizations are based in Washington, D.C.

The Common Core Standards documents currently claim the following:

          The standards define the knowledge and skills students should gain throughout their K-12 education in order to graduate high school prepared to succeed in entry-level careers, introductory academic college courses, and workforce training programs.

To assure the public that the Common Core Standards reflect this definition, the two trade organizations (NGA and CCSSO) also created the Common Core Validation Committee.  The Validation Committee consisted of approximately 29 members during 2009-2010.  Dr. James Milgram was the only mathematician on the Validation Committee.  (There were several math educators and people engaged in teacher training.)  Dr. Sandra Stotsky was the only expert in K-12 English Language Arts.

Dr. Milgram’s and Dr. Stotsky’s responsibility was to make sure the research upon which the Common Core Standards were built was sound research. Instead, even though they continually asked the CCS authors for independent, peer-reviewed research to support the CCS, none was produced.  Therefore, both Dr. Milgram and Dr. Stotsky refused to validate the Common Core Standards.

The five lead writers of the Common Core Standards (CCS) were:

  • English – David Coleman and Susan Pimentel
  • Mathematics – Jason Zimba, Phil Daro, and William McCallum


  1. Jason Zimba’s Definition of College Readiness in 2010

As one of the lead writers of the Common Core Mathematics Standards, Jason Zimba often serves as the spokesman for CCS.  During a March 2010 meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the official minutes of the meeting carries the following:

          Mr. Zimba said that the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.

To verify the accuracy of the official minutes of the March 2010 meeting, Dr. Milgram and Dr. Stotsky obtained a copy of the official recording of the meeting (sound quality was excellent).  (Dr. Stotsky was a member of the Massachusetts State Board at the time of Zimba’s presentation on Common Core.)  Zimba’s exact comment in his initial presentation was:

          We have agreement to the extent that it’s a fuzzy definition, that the minimally college-ready student is a student who passed Algebra II.

When Dr. Stotsky later asked him to clarify what he meant, Zimba stated:

          In my original remarks, I didn’t make that point strongly enough or signal the agreement that we have on this— the definition of college readiness. I think it’s a fair critique that it’s a minimal definition of college readiness.

Stotsky remarked at this point “for some colleges,” and Zimba responded by stating:

          Well, for the colleges most kids go to, but not for the colleges most parents aspire to.

Stotsky then asked “Not for STEM? Not for international competitiveness?” Zimba responded:

          Not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges. For example, for UC Berkeley, whether you are going to be an engineer or not, you’d better have precalculus to get into UC Berkeley.

Common Core spokesman Jason Zimba is saying that college readiness means that students do not have to take a remedial course in Mathematics or English to attend a non-selective college or community college.  The Pioneer Institute report continues:

          In many ways this definition and the dialogue above are remarkable. It is extremely rare for a lead author of a standards document to admit that a major concept (the definition of college readiness) does not apply to high school students capable of entering (or seeking to enter) a selective college or university (roughly the top 20-30 per cent of a high school cohort).


  1. Zimba’s Definition of College Readiness in 2013

In 2013, Jason Zimba offered a different explanation of college readiness.  His new explanation claims that the Common Core definition of college readiness is not pegged to a community college level.  The Pioneer authors explain:

          According to him, the definition of college and career readiness in the standards document is readiness for entry-level, credit-bearing courses in mathematics at all public four-year colleges, as well as courses at two-year colleges that transfer for credit at four-year colleges.

Clearly, Zimba’s 2013 definition contradicts his 2010 comments.  The Common Core Standards do not prepare high school students for public four-year colleges. 

What about STEM areas?  The Common Core Math Standards basically end in the middle of a weak Algebra II course; and major topics in Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus are not included (no Calculus is included in high school).  Because of these weaknesses, the Common Core Standards will not prepare students for STEM careers.


  1. The Federal Government Changes the Rules on Remedial College Courses

Through the USDOE’s Race to the Top (RTTT) program, the federal government has changed the definition of college readiness and has dictated how colleges handle remedial courses.  The Introduction for RTTT awards includes the following statements:

          … design and development of the consortium’s final high school summative assessments and to implement policies that exempt from remedial courses and place into credit-bearing college courses students who meet the consortium-adopted achievement standard (as defined in this notice) for those assessments…

The important point is that Common Core students will be exempted from remedial courses and placed in credit-bearing courses.  The RTTT language dictates that high school students who have passed the Common Core “college readiness” test must be placed in credit-bearing Math and English courses.

As the Pioneer authors indicate:

          We find these requirements for Common Core states astounding because they apply to all public institutions of higher education, not just to those for which Common Core’s mathematics standards were intended, according to the lead mathematics standards writer, Jason Zimba.

The first for-credit courses at non-selective institutions are often regarded as remedial at other colleges and universities, yet “articulation agreements” between two-year and four-year public colleges often require that transfer credit be given.


  1. Common Core Is a Huge Fraud!

The Pioneer Report on “Lowering the Bar” concludes by offering this chilling indictment against Common Core:

          At this time we can conclude only that a gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country, in particular on parents in this country, by those developing, promoting, or endorsing Common Core’s standards. We have no illusion that the college-readiness level in ELA will be any more demanding than Common Core’s college-readiness level in mathematics.



  1. College Readiness of High School Graduates

As a direct result of the federal government’s Race to the Top program, 45 states (plus the District of Columbia) adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010 and 2011.  Today 42 states plus D.C. are using Common Core (according to the Common Core website).

The ACT evaluates College and Career Readiness for students across the country.  On the National Level, the situation is not good.  According to the 2014 ACT test results, only 26 % of the high school graduates met all four college readiness benchmarks (English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science).  English was 64 %, Reading was 44 %, Mathematics was 43 %, and Science was 37 %.

Over the last five years, the scores are trending downward for most subjects.  Since 2012, College Readiness has dropped in English, Reading, and Mathematics.  Reading experienced the largest drop, from 52 % in 2012 to 44 % in 2013.  This coincides very closely with the implementation of Common Core in most states.

The engineering colleges at most universities require incoming freshmen students to have taken four years of high school math, preferably through Calculus.  Other STEM fields (like science and medicine) have similar requirements for high school math.

Because the Common Core Math Standards basically end in the middle of Algebra 2, students following Common Core will not be prepared for STEM careers.  In order to be fully prepared for the Math requirements of STEM, students should have taken Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus in Middle School and High School.  Few high school graduates have taken this full series of math courses. 

According to the ACT, only 6 % of the nation’s high school graduates have taken the full series of courses (Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus).  Only 7 % of the nation’s students have taken this series of courses, except Calculus.  (Because the ACT provides detailed reports for each state, the public can obtain a wealth of information for their particular state.)

Most educators know that students must be good readers by Grade 3; success in school can be predicted fairly well by examining a student’s reading ability in the third grade.  Studies show that students who are not performing well above average in reading and math by Grade 3 are unlikely to become academic high achievers. 

In the same way, educators must strive to get students ready to take Algebra 1 by the 8th grade.  Competent math teachers know that students excel in math when the students are prepared to take Algebra 1 in the 8th grade.  Because the Common Core Standards (CCS) delay Algebra 1 until high school, the CCS students will not reach the higher math courses (Trigonometry and Calculus).  An excellent report by Ze’ev Wurman determined:

          preparation of all K-7 students to take an Algebra 1 class in grade 8 benefits the minority and disadvantaged students the most. The explanation seems pretty obvious. When grade 8 Algebra is considered an accelerated course, students that get the required acceleration—tutoring, home support—come mostly from advantaged households. Only when everyone is prepared in grades K to 7 to reach algebra in grade 8 do the disadvantaged students get their chance to shine.

          …early Algebra-taking translates directly into increased successful taking of advanced mathematics in high school—not only Geometry and Algebra 2 but even Advanced Placement Calculus AB and BC courses.  

          But the true travesty of the Common Core is its failure to deliver on its promise of a genuine Algebra course in grade 8, and the devastating impact that failure is bound to have on the achievement of minorities and disadvantaged students.

The students who derive the most benefit from taking Algebra 1 by the 8th grade are minority and disadvantaged students.  If schools want to close the minority achievement gaps, they must insist on preparing students to take Algebra 1 by Grade 8.


  1. Ramifications of Common Core’s Weak Standards

When the Pioneer Institute analyzed the NCES study, it found a very strong linkage between the math courses in high school and success in college.

The government data for STEM is quite compelling.  It is extremely rare for students who begin their undergraduate years with coursework in pre-calculus (or an even lower level of mathematical knowledge) to achieve a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area.

          U.S. government data shows that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area.

          Moreover, students whose last high school math course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 percent chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.

          In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publication STEM in Postsecondary Education shows that only 2.1 percent of STEM-intending students who had to take pre-college mathematics coursework in their freshman year graduated with a STEM degree.


NCES determined: “If the incoming STEM students must take introductory college-level math, only 15 % of the students will earn a STEM degree.”

Several startling conclusions are revealed in the NCES study, “STEM in Postsecondary Education: Entrance, Attrition, and Coursetaking Among 2003−04 Beginning Postsecondary Students.”  These include:

  1. If the incoming STEM college students have taken Calculus in High School, 69 % of them will complete a STEM degree.
  2. If the incoming STEM students must take introductory college-level math, only 15 % of the students will earn a STEM degree.
  3. If the incoming non-STEM students must take introductory college-level math, 26 % of the students will leave college without a degree.



The Common Core Standards purport to make students College and Career Ready.  The claim is bogus and has not been supported with solid research. 

Common Core’s definition of College and Career Readiness has changed over the last few years. 

Jason Zimba, one of the Common Core Math authors, has offered various definitions of “College and Career Readiness.”  Later explanations contradict earlier definitions.

A gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country (in particular on unsuspecting parents) by those who have a vested interest in developing, promoting, and/or endorsing Common Core Standards.

The students who derive the most benefit from taking Algebra 1 by the 8th grade are minority and disadvantaged students.

If schools want to close the minority achievement gaps, they must insist on preparing students to take Algebra 1 by Grade 8.

Only 6 % of the nation’s high school graduates have taken the full series of courses (Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus).

If the incoming STEM students must take introductory college-level math, only 15 % of the students will earn a STEM degree.

Students whose last high school math course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 % chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.


Bio for Henry W. Burke

Henry Burke is a Civil Engineer with a B.S.C.E. and M.S.C.E.  He has been a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) for 37 years and has worked as a Civil Engineer in construction for over 40 years. 

Mr. Burke had a successful 27-year career with a large construction company. 

Henry Burke serves as a full-time volunteer to oversee various construction projects. He has written numerous articles on education, engineering, construction, politics, taxes, and the economy.

Henry W. Burke


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment

  1. alie fox

    I just found this article on a web search, and I have to say something. I’ve noticed that this was written 5 years ago, and I’m hoping the owner of the page will see this.

    I am a current community college student, an older student that was taught math in a traditional manner. Math has never been a strong point for me. Yet I walk into the community college and I’m thrown into Common Core math. Specifically California Common Core math.

    My career focus is on graphic design and multimedia. Never will I ever use this math I’m being taught. Ever! Many of my instructors have never had to take the kind of math I’m doing. I never want to go into science, or engineering, I wanted to go into arts. I’ve had to take so many math classes it’s crazy.

    Last year in 2019, the state of California will no longer do assessment testing because of the low math and English highschool graduating scores. The math department at my college is at a 50% failure rate, and a 33% graduation rate. As I said, I’m not good at math, but that just seems very low to me.

    I can’t seem to make it passed a D in math, where there are other classes I’m an A student and have won academic rewards for a high GPA, but math is taking that all away from me.

    Currently, I’m in a class that was originally named the Nature of Mathematics, so it’s a little bit of everything. However, because California high school students are doing so poorly in math they decided to streamline it allowing students to choose whatever math class they wanted too. So they renamed Nature of Mathematics to, Math for General Education worth 3 units, and just allow people to go into classes. The college focused on statistics, therefore those in Math for general education do not get any tutoring for the statistics part of the math class, which is approximately 2/3 of what is taught in the class. The same exact material that is taught in the stats class.

    I had never really used a calculator before, not in Algebra 1 or 2. Suddenly I have to rent a scientific calculator and know many different functions while trying to remember all the steps to the math problems. If that isn’t bad enough, I must work on My Math Lab by Pearson’s online for homework. There are many questions, lots of steps, and instructions that arent clear. To make matters worse, when it comes to charts, and graphs you will be given a tiny window to read them, and no way to widen the window. Many times Pearson’s will mark you wrong when you have the answer correct. When my professor of math gets them wrong, a calculator gets the answer wrong, and the engineer gets the answers wrong, we have a problem with the program. Pearson’s is aware of this but won’t be fixing it any time soon.

    A math student must pass 80% of the test to pass the class. I’m taking this class for the 3rd and last time. I won’t be allowed to take this class again. I only need this math to obtain my diploma. Many students blow their careers off because they can’t pass math. I know parents that have the same complaints. They expect too much, and from the homework, I have seen from a second grader it is ridiculous.

    So I have come to the conclusion, this is not about learning, rather it’s about passing the test. So if you are a good test taker you good to go, but if not, then you are doomed.

    Common Core is a Joke, and I don’t understand for the life of me why we can’t go back to tried and true methods of teach math.