Common Core

Why Common Core Will Fail: 'Children Are Not Standardized'


Jim Pennucci / Wikimedia Commons

Forbes contributor Alice Walton has written a terrific roundup of the anti-Common Core expert consensus. Numerous education researchers and academics have reservations about greater classroom standardization—particularly in the early grades, where excessive testing and homework is most deleterious for kids.

Walton writes:

David Elkind, long-time child development expert at Tufts University and author ofThe Hurried Child, says that a related problem with the Common Core standards is that "children are not standardized." Between ages 4 to 7, he says, kids are undergoing especially rapid changes in cognitive ability, but this neurological and psychological development occurs at all different rates. "Some children attain these abilities—which enable them to learn verbal rules, the essence of formal instruction—at different ages.

Some of the experts cited by Walton argued the long hours of standardized testing that kindergartners must endure under Common Core are wholly inappropriate:

 Diane Ravitch, education historian at NYU and vocal criticof the Common Core, says that in particular, "the early grades are developmentally inappropriate. Children of 5 and 6 and 7 need time for play, not a forced academic march. They will have 6-hour, 8-hour tests. That is nuts…. The American ideal was always a well-rounded child prepared for citizenship and life. Now it is all test prep."

While others disputed the notion—vehemently asserted by Core supporters—that the standards are internationally benchmarked:

[2013 New York High School Principal of the Year Carol Burris] adds that exactly which countries to which the Common Core is benchmarked remains a mystery. "What's so fascinating is that many of the high-performing countries children start much later. In some countries, like Singapore, there are two years of Kindergarten. In Finland, another high performing nation, students start much later. In Canada, which uses provincial standards, the early years are a time for play and exploration. No one can find to what country these Standards are benchmarked."

Full article here.

There are of course many experts who dispute the above notions and believe that Common Core is an improvement over what is being offered in many American schools. They may even be right; it's perfectly possible that Common Core is bad and what it's replacing is worse. This is the public school system we are talking about, after all.

But why waste tons of time, money, and effort enacting an across-the-board reform that makes kids miserable, relies on deeply unsettled science, has no demonstrable benefit, and deals a death blow to federalism (at least as far as national education policy is concerned)?

More choice, not less, is what will save public education. As Elkin observed, kids don't come standard.

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  1. But they must be standardized! Everything must be standardized. We’re just trying to improve on what the Soviets were doing before an evil Rethuglican caused them to fall apart. Everything is only going wrong now in the USSA because Rethuglican obstructionism. Once we have rid of those evil Rethuglicans, the new age of progressive glory will arrive. And we have the right top men at the ready! Most of them are Obama’s friends, so it has to be good!

    1. If children cannot be standardized by conventional means, then what we need are clearly unconventional means, like re-education camps and genetic engineering.

      1. Maybe we could implement some kind of eugenics program… Only problem, we’d probably need an example to follow.

          1. Sorry, that’s only available to Sikh-Mexicans.

              1. Of course. Soon, they will offer the world order. And an exciting new hybrid cuisine–Mexican-Indian.

                1. I got heartburn just reading about “Mexican-Indian” food.

                  1. Are you kidding? It’s awesome! Have a naanurrito! And some mole-tandoori!

                    Soon, Khandhi’s Ind-Mex Grill will be opening.

                  2. I can’t even think what could possibly be better than Mexican food and curry combing. Yummy.

              2. I see a lot of wiminz from Central Murika. Seriously, most of them are not attractive, sort of frumpy and sloppy looking with their belly hanging out over their jeans. But the ones that are attractive are sometimes quite stunning.

                1. Re: Hyperion,

                  Seriously, most of them are not attractive

                  Not all Mexican women look like Laura Harring. But most look much better than your normal Punjabi gal.

              3. Whoa, I was just mentioning the little-known phenomenon of Sikh/Mexican marriages yesterday. Weird synchronicity.

          2. Also,

            Nothing ever changes, except man. Your technical accomplishments? Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity, but improve man and you gain a thousandfold. I am such a man.

            Incidentally, why isn’t this the official slogan of the Khan Academy?

          3. Let’s see if I can manage this…

            Laugh with me!

      2. like re-education camps and genetic engineering.

        Well, we’re halfway there, then.

  2. Ravitch’s problem with the Common Core isn’t that it is an attempt to force a certain ideal of education upon the entire population, but just that it doesn’t fit her ideal of education.

    Par for the course from that screeching fascist harpy.

  3. ” long hours of standardized testing that kindergartners must endure under Common Core “

    Holy shit.

    I had no idea it was that bad. I know a teeny bit about this stuff (childhood cognitive development); anyone who thought to apply ‘standardized testing’ to kids below 7-8 are @(#*$()@ retarded, and run afoul of every single thing known about how kids brains develop. Children of basically similar intelligence will show radically different developmental patterns until 7 or so, and they don’t even stabilize entirely at that point.

    I’d go so far as to say that “10” would be the youngest you should even bother to try to do comparative testing. Before then, its meaningless bullshit designed to *feed the system* rather than cater to the student.

    1. I don’t know, the Iowa Tests weren’t so bad. But then again, there was no pressure applies regarding those.

  4. ‘Children Are Not Standardized’


  5. The problem is all the people having children without a license and raising them in non-standard ways using unapproved techniques.

  6. “introducing a set of national standards is a first step toward widespread accountability, toward the clearly worthy goal of having a teacher in Alaska teach more or less the same thing as a teacher in Alabama.”

    I hear these progs say this all the time, as if it’s self-evident that kids in Alaska should learn the same stuff as one in Alabama? Why? It’s not at all clear to me.

  7. Nothing screams “Top Men” like Common Core.

  8. I guess it’s tough to accept that sometimes parents and teachers don’t give a shit about particular kids. Some kids are ugly and stupid and nobody seems to be able to work up enough effort to make a difference. No amount of headstarting, not leaving them behind, or common coring is going to change that. Of course the majority of parents love their ugly rugrats, and there are plenty of teachers willing to make a difference. But it functions from personal choice and bonds, not government cookie cutters.

  9. Not only are children not standardized, but any individual child is not standardized either: A given child at age 17 is not the same as he was at 13, or at 10 or at 7 or at 4. It drives government bureaucrats crazy, but there’s no getting around it.

    And then there’s the other fact about children that too many adults want to ignore. Children are people. Or as David Friedman put it: “I have long held that there are two fundamental views of children: That they are pets who can talk, or that they are small people who do not yet know very much. The wrong one is winning.”

  10. I recently reviewed some common core math and arithmetic test questions. It occurs to me that common core math will most likely fail because the average teacher is too fucking mentally ossified (and let’s just admit it: too fucking stupid) to relearn math concepts under the common core paradigm. The concepts aren’t really that earth shatteringly complex, but they do require some degree of mental agility to order the new concepts within one’s existing mathmatical understanding. Its a little like asking adults to learn a new language while simultaniously tasking them to teach it to elementry school children. It’s not impossible, but it likely requires a pretty firm understanding and agility with math, something I fear the average teacher, like the average man on the street, lacks. Reports that the Average-Joe parent is perplexed by common core math should inform us that the average elementary and middle school teacher is likely just as perplexed.

    ” School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers. “ – H. L. Menken

    1. Lets not forget there is no training for the parents who have a role in helping the kids learn too.

      I can generally figure out what the common core worksheets are looking for but I’m pretty good with math and have just naturally developed a lot of the same techniques on my own over the years.

      Your average parent who hasn’t taken a math class since High School and hated it back then is going to look at this stuff and be utterly perplexed

  11. For those of you who don’t have kids in elementary education these days, today’s kindergarten is not your kindergarten. My son actually had homework every night in kindergarten. They learn to read and write and do math. And color. Holy crap do they do a lot of coloring.

    Every homework page had something relevant academically and then a bunch of stuff they had to color. Like “count the flowers in this picture”. (kid writes the number 5) Now color the picture.

    Pages and pages of that every day. I am pretty certain the true educational objective was to indoctrinate the kids to sit still and focus on writing on their paper for hours a day.

    It seems to me that we covered the colors and numbers and letters in kindergarten, and that’s about it. We had recess and snack and nap time. They don’t have naps any more. And that other stuff is covered in preschool. My 4 year old has homework in her preschool class. On the up side she can do most addition and subtraction problems below 20, so that should hold her in good stead for her MIT application.

    1. “I am pretty certain the true educational objective was to indoctrinate the kids to sit still and focus on writing on their paper for hours a day.”

      This is absolutely correct.

      The fact is most kids learn to do something correctly “once”, then the rest is simply the willpower to repeat that learned thing over and over and over.

      So that the meta-lesson is = “do as you are told even when you already know how to do it”

      a negative consequence of this sort of thing is an early-adoption of contempt for repetition that is obviously unecessary. Kids are impatient to learn – not to take orders. I was a ‘bad kid’ in school until high school because everything was *too easy*. There are lots of kids like that. Once they ‘get it’, they don’t want to be told to keep doing it just to please the Authority. Good teaching puts new challenges in place ‘as a reward’ for doing the repetition. (i.e. bonus question!)

    2. My son actually had homework every night in kindergarten.

      Christ–what the fuck is wrong with people? Plenty of studies have shown that 5 and 6-year-old kids learn best by playing, not from hours of busywork. I guess real life can fuck off for these administrators because they have a spreadsheet to fill out.

  12. The Common Core will fail because our children aren’t ready to it. Then concept is really interesting. It can be very successful for highly prepared children and ours are obviously not. It will influence teachers as well. I just think that maybe if they changed the evaluation system slightly, then it could have some chances. Today?I really don’t think so. It will only push children to the edge of getting custom essays. It I time to make certain corrections

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