The Common Core State Standards are a set of educational benchmarks introduced by the National Governor’s Institute and adopted by 43 states that are meant to monitor and maintain the progress of students in math and language arts. According to the New York Times, the standards are meant to address the overall gap between American academic standards and academic standards in the rest of the developed world. While in theory the Common Core standards are a good way of unifying American educational standards across the country and improving student achievement, in reality Common Core fails to recognize external factors in students’ lives that may contribute to their ability to achieve academically and at a more basic level, measures ‘academic ability’ in an extremely binary way that fails to recognize more untraditional expressions of intelligence and ability.
In the years preceding the implementation of Common Core, American students were scoring in the 50th percentile or below on international measures of academic success, according to Vox. Concerned about America’s educational mediocrity, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association created Common Core as a means of improving American academics mainly through standardized tests assessing students’ mathematical and verbal abilities at the end of each school year. However, Common Core overlooks outside-of-school factors affecting a student’s ability to learn. According to a 2016 New York Times article on Common Core effectiveness, “Well-off students usually score in the top half of results; students from poor homes usually score in the bottom.” Poverty, disability, and many other personal setbacks are not taken into account when assessing the ability of a student through Common Core standards. Thus, students with impactful outside-of-school situations are marked as academically inferior and often fall through the cracks at their schools because they are struggling to keep up with the rigorous and time-consuming standards set by Common Core.
More fundamental than the problems with Common Core’s black-and-white assessment of student progress is its view towards student intelligence in general. Common Core measures student progress largely through standardized testing. Tests with one ‘right answer’ are extremely narrow measures of a student’s actual ability; in reality they only measure what students remember from their classes. More abstract forms of intelligence such as creativity and imagination are impossible to measure through such restrictive tests. As a result, a student who isn’t good at math or language arts but is incredibly intelligent in other ways (perhaps they are a gifted painter, or a talented storyteller) isn’t recognized for their abilities.
The Common Core Standards are a good starting point for effective education reform but their lack of consideration for extenuating circumstances and alternative forms of intelligence prevent them from being an effective system of measuring student progress. By adding a more substantial support system for students who struggle outside of school and providing recognition and opportunities for students to nurture their own specific abilities, public schools can close the gaps opened by Common Core and provide a truly equal and fulfilling education for everyone.
By Julianna Baldo