Yesterday’s New York Times has an article by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus “Who’s Minding the Schools?”, which makes a strong case against the so called Common Core education standards already adopted by 45 states. Their argument is that the standards are a “one-size-fits-all pathway governed by abstract academic content” which will primarily benefit the affluent middle class students who have strong parental support and who will go on to attend selective colleges.
About a year ago Mr. Hacker wrote another NYT article “Is Algebra Necessary?”, pointing out all the grief resulting from requiring high school students to learn algebra. The Common Core standards have a strong algebra component and so they will tend to solidify the expectation that all high school students study algebra and learn it well. This is an especially big challenge for low income and minority students who have the least academic success in high school and are the most likely to drop out before graduation.
Both the U.S. Senate and the House are currently considering legislation to renew No Child Left Behind by giving states more flexibility in figuring out how to increase educational success for their own students. This makes a lot of sense and should make it possible to cut back substantially on the approximately $100 billion per year spent by the federal Department of Education on grants to the various states. In other words, for various reasons there is currently taking place a shift in educational policy to give more control and responsibility back to the states. The Common Core standards are attempting to move things towards more federal control and therefore are likely to face very strong headwinds.