Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s opinion editorial with Maureen Downey in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is just plain important. It’s published in this week’s AJC:
SHOULD AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOLS PREPARE ANY STUDENTS FOR STEM? COMMON CORE DOESN’T THINK SO.
By Sandra Stotsky
When states adopted Common Core’s mathematics standards, they were told (among other things) that these standards would make all high school students “college- and career-ready” and strengthen the critical pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
However, with the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards end after Algebra II, as James Milgram, professor of mathematics emeritus at Stanford University, observed in “Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM,” a report that we co-authored for the Pioneer Institute.
Who was responsible for telling the Georgia Board of Education when it adopted these standards in 2010 that Common Core includes no standards for precalculus or for getting to precalculus from a weak Algebra II? Who should be telling Georgia business executives and Georgia college presidents today that high school graduates taught only to Common Core’s mathematics standards won’t be able to pursue a four-year degree in STEM?
Superintendents, local school committees, and most parents, in fact, have been led to believe that Common Core’s mathematics standards are rigorous. They are not complicit in this clever act of educational sabotage. But those who wrote these standards are. They knew that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn bachelor’s degrees in a STEM area.
It’s not as if the lead mathematics standards writers themselves didn’t tell us how low Common Core’s high school mathematics standards were. At a March 2010 meeting* of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jason Zimba, a lead writer, told the board that the standards are “not for STEM.” In January 2010, William McCallum, another lead writer, told a group of mathematicians: “The overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.”
Moreover, Professor Milgram and I were members of Common Core’s Validation Committee, which was charged with reviewing drafts of the standards. We both refused to sign off on the academic quality of the final version of Common Core’s standards and made our criticism public.
There are other consequences to having a college readiness test in mathematics with low expectations. The U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program requires states to place students who have been admitted by their public colleges and universities into credit-bearing (non-remedial) mathematics (and English) courses if they have passed a Common Core–based “college readiness” test. All public colleges, engineering schools, and universities in Georgia will likely have to lower the level of their introductory math courses to avoid unacceptably high failure rates.
It is still astonishing that Georgia’s state Board of Education adopted Common Core’s standards without asking the engineering, science, and mathematics faculty at its own higher education institutions (and the mathematics teachers in its own high schools) to analyze Common Core’s definition of college readiness and make public their recommendations. After all, who could be better judges of what students need for a STEM major?
Georgia should revise or abandon its Common Core’s mathematics standards as soon as possible unless, of course, the governor and the state’s board of education aren’t interested in having American-born and educated engineers, doctors, or scientists.
If that is the case, then keep the Common Core status quo.
Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on Common Core’s official Validation Committee from 2009-2010, wrote a report for Georgia state Sen. William Ligon comparing Common Core’s English standards with Georgia’s Performance Standards.
*The above-mentioned meeting (where Common Core creators admitted that Common Core does not prepare students for STEM careers, and that it is only meant for nonselective, two year colleges) was filmed and is viewable here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJZY4mh2rt8
Also, here is a link to view Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Christopher Tienken, and others speaking at a recent Carroll County, Maryland, pro-and-con Common Core Forum.
On December 8th, in Howard County, Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Tienken will be speaking at another forum, alongside many others including the Maryland Superintendent of Schools and the cofounder of United Opt Out. The press release gave the following time and address for anyone who is able to attend: 5:00 pm, Sunday, December 8th: Reservoir High School, 11550 Scaggsville Road in Fulton, Maryland.