Eye on Education

Con: Common Core critic finds much that’s missing

My opposition to Common Core math is based on the fact that it is marketed as raising the bar on math standards and was designed to ensure students are “college and career ready.” These statements are untrue and feed a false narrative that continues to be marketed locally and nationally by politicians and “education reformers.”

The supporters of Common Core standards claim the standards are not curriculum but a new way of teaching. Common Core is copyrighted, licensed and owned by two national lobby groups. Simply stated, it is a product driven by the SBAC and PAARCC testing consortiums with a $360 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education with an agenda of forcing teachers to teach to the test.

The pre-Common Core California 1997 math standards written in part by professor R. James Milgram at Stanford University were considered the gold standard. Common Core math stops at Algebra II “light” and leaves our early learners almost two years behind in junior high.

Jason Zimba, a lead architect of the math standards, states that Common Core will not get a student into a college STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degree program. Students entering the UC Berkeley business, UC Davis computer science, civil engineering, mechanical engineering or aeronautical engineering degree programs are required to be ready for calculus. Common Core math does not prepare students for entry into these programs and therefore does not achieve college readiness and does not raise the bar on standards.

The underlying problem as an elected school board trustee is the inability to provide classroom material. Many years into this process and there are still no validated peer-reviewed Common Core math classroom materials. Instead, many teachers and students are working with Xeroxed copies and YouTube videos. When I ask about returning to the old math framework, I am told that is not what we are testing. Standardized testing is driving classroom instruction, and that is a huge problem in the long term.

In conclusion, the standards do not raise the bar, do not prepare students for STEM college programs, do not provide a foundation for early learners, and at best were poorly implemented. Our children and teachers deserve more than experimental curriculum funded by $91,606,554 of Gates Foundation money and a Department of Education with a political goal not an educational goal. Public policy should never be for sale. When it comes to our children, Common Core is not just the wrong policy, it is a negligent policy focused on testing, not teaching.

John Walker is a Modesto City Schools board member. He works as an air traffic control software engineer for NASA.

Comparing old, new standards

Addition proficiency: 1997 Standards Grade 3; Common Core Grade 4

Subtraction proficiency: 1997 Standards Grade 3; Common Core Grade 4

Multiplication proficiency: 1997 Standards Grade 4; Common Core Grade 5

Division proficiency: 1997 Standards Grade 4; Common Core Grade 6

Teaching decimals: 1997 Standards Grades 2/3; Common Core Grade 4

Algebra I standards missing in Common Core: Division of monomials and polynomials; manipulation and simplification of rational expressions; multistep problems with linear equations and inequalities; multistep problems with four operations between polynomials

Algebra II standards missing in Common Core: Composite functions; combinations and permutations; structure of logarithms; conversion between bases

Source: John Walker