"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The common core: A bad solution aimed at the wrong problem

Sent to Newsweek

Alexander Nazaryan ("Sorry, Louis C.K., but You’re Wrong About Common Core," May 1) says our schools need the increased "rigor" of the common core because they are so bad: "China, South Korea and Germany are leaving us in the chalk dust, most Americans can barely find America on the map ...".
Not so.  When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students' international test scores are at the top of the world.  Our  overall scores are unspectacular (but not terrible) because we have so much child poverty, 24%, the second highest among all economically advanced countries.  

Poverty means poor diet, inadequate health care, and little or no access to books. All of these have devastating effects on school performance.  The best teaching has little effect when children are hungry, ill and have nothing to read.

The common core not only ignores the real problem, but also offers us a plan with no basis in the research: There is no research supporting "tough" standards, no reesearch that justifies the bad math homework Louis C.K.'s children had to deal with. Also, studies show that increasing testing does not improve school achievement.

The common core is a bad solution that is aimed at the wrong problem.

Article appears at:


Levels of poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

Control for poverty:
Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).

“Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books”:
Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success.  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;   Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership  55(4): 18-22.

Increasing testing does not mean greater achievement:
Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1).  http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/. OECD. Tienken, C., 2011. Common core standards: An example of data-less decision-making. Journal of Scholarship and Practice. American Association of School Administrators [AASA], 7(4): 3-18. http://www.aasa.org/jsp.aspx.

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