“Common Does Not Equal Excellent”: New Report Sheds Light on Deficiencies of Common Core’s Math Standards
(Washington, D.C.) – The American Principles Project Foundation has just published a new report, “Common Does Not Equal Excellent.” Focusing on the K-8 Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M), authors Erin Tuttle and J.R. Wilson provide evidence that the CCSS-M’s dictation of an instructional approach blurs the line between standards and curriculum. The standards consequently undermine the professional judgment of teachers, whose task it is to know the varied learning needs and styles of their students. Tuttle and Wilson consequently refute the claim that the Common Core is benign, or “just a set of standards.”
The K-8 CCSS-M differ substantially from the standards of high-performing countries and are ultimately developmentally inappropriate. Leveraging topic coverage comparisons, Tuttle and Wilson demonstrate that the CCSS-M fail to embody the coherence and focus evident in the standards of high-performing countries. This failure stems in large measure from a focus on abstract-levels of cognitive demand and demonstration of understanding. In turn, such focus results in tasks that often stunt students’ learning. By contrast, higher-performing countries emphasize concrete levels of cognitive demand memorization, and procedural fluency.
Tuttle and Wilson assert that the “rigor” claimed by CCSS-M is not so much in the content as in the expectation that students display knowledge—a task for which they are frequently left without adequate tools. Though cognitively heavy, the CCSS-M remain procedures-poor. Focusing too early on the abstract drives an insistence on inefficient computation strategies. More effective, proven, and developmentally appropriate methods are delayed by up to two years. For instance, the CCSS-M does not introduce the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction until grade 4. Standard algorithms for multiplication and subtraction are thus withheld until grades 5 and 6 respectively. These delays result in inadequate preparation of students for algebra and beyond.
In addition to the CCSS-M per se, Tuttle and Wilson also explore the K-8 Publisher’s Criteria for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics as well as Progressions for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics, the latter written by the CCSS-M’s lead authors. Both documents go into greater detail concerning the strategies and instructional techniques embedded within the CCSS-M, laying out expectations for textbook, assessment, and instructional alignment. These additional materials clearly inform the use of CCSS-M in the classroom, essentially determining inefficient instructional delivery methods that undermine professional teacher judgment.
Tuttle and Wilson conclude there is no empirical support for either the claim or the expectation that CCSS-M will improve student achievement.