Common Core: The Good, the Bad, and the Truth 1

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Jonah Vu

“I hate Common Core!” How many times have you heard a friend say this, or said this yourself? A majority of the student population, if asked, might agree, but what exactly is Common Core, and how bad is it?

In 2010, 42 of the 50 U.S. states adopted the Common Core State Standards, or CCSS. These new standards for language arts and math are meant to prepare students for the workforce after high school. College and career readiness standards, implemented in 2009, are also met by Common Core.

The changes in the English Language Arts area incorporate more information-based texts and requirements students to do more extensive analysis of texts, including the necessity to provide textual evidence to support their answers. Basically, the CCSS encourages students to present arguments and do interpretive and cognitive thinking.

Acceleration in math is a huge controversy among students and parents ever since CCSS for math were carried out. Before Common Core, a standardized algebra test was taken by all 8th-grade students. By 2012, the proficiency rate increased, but 28% of test takers still scored below or far below basic. After California adopted Common Core, they eliminated the policy that said, “It was critical in 8th grade to propel the majority of students toward advanced math.”

As a result, the debate continued but pushed over to singular districts to decide for themselves. This is why some students outside of the Westminster School District have the ability to take Geometry in eighth grade, instead of having to wait until high school like the rest of us.

For those of us currently in eighth grade, we just barely missed the cutoff date; ninth graders from Stacey have already finished Geometry and are taking Algebra 2 in their freshman year while we have to take Geometry in freshman year and Algebra in sophomore year. This situation leaves us a full year’s worth of math behind.

The goal of Common Core is for students to take Calculus by their senior year, but my brother, for example, is a sophomore planning to take Calculus BC next year as a junior. Common Core hopes that a new sequence of math courses won’t rush students too quickly into something too difficult, and they’re exercising this by disallowing eighth graders to be accelerated.

The State Board of Education Course Placement Appendix reads that “Decisions to accelerate students into the Common Core State Standards for higher mathematics before 9th grade should not be rushed. Placing students in an accelerated pathway too early should be avoided at all costs.” Seventh and eighth-grade students will instead begin to learn basic algebra before being introduced to a more complicated high school curriculum. Still, many high school districts are considering acceleration options for students to reach Calculus by their senior year or even sooner.

As terrible as this might seem, James Milgram, a mathematician at Stanford University on the Common Core validation committee, says, “The reality is that they are better than 85 or 90 percent of the state standards they replace. Not a little better. A lot better.”

Another purpose of Common Core is to bring all states under similar standards, so the whole nation has a “common core.” 33 of the states that adopted the new standards found that the CCSS “bested both ELA and math standards.” However, a few states, California being one of them, had preferable ELA standards.

What students don’t understand is that the majority of CCSS are beneficial to students’ learning and their future. Aside from the whole algebra/geometry affair, CCSS had standards similar to other countries in the world in several aspects. They develop students to succeed in the future by applying higher level thinking and more rigorous content.

Perhaps students inadvertently target school in general when they criticize Common Core. If one does any simple amount of research, they’ll find that it’s a constructive new approach to education and not just a program to give students more work.

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