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Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
By Jessica Harvey  
March 29, 2015


     “Add 26 + 17 by breaking apart numbers to make a ten.  Use a number that adds with the 6 in 26 to make a 10.  Since 6 + 4 = 10, use 4.  Think: 17 = 4 + 13.  Add 26 + 4 = 30.  Add 30 + 13 = 43.  So 26 + 17 = 43” (Farmer).  Believe it or not, that is a third-grade mathematical equation.  Since its release in 2010, Common Core has standardized K-12 academics in English language arts and mathematics.  Rather than excelling in “literacy, proficiency, or increased graduation rates,” the Common Core strives to make students “college- and career- ready” (Home School Legal Defense Association).  According to a poll conducted by Gallup in May of 2013, only 62% of Americans claimed to have heard of the Common Core (Reid).  With the realization of America’s startling lack of awareness, I decided to further educate myself on the issues within Common Core.  After all, in addition to shaping students, the new standards affect parents, educators, and taxpayers alike.  Therefore, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) should be removed from public schools.  In order to present a convincing case against Common Core, one must understand where it came from (the development), why it’s a problem (math standards), and how to fight it (advocate for reform).

     As I said, the first part of understanding the problems within Common Core, is understanding the background of it.  Common Core’s origin can be tracked all the way back to the United Nations-sponsored “World Conference on Education for All” in 1990.  During the event, world leaders from 150 countries discussed various educational goals—one of which was approved by George W. Bush: “Outcome-Based Education.”  The ultimate appeal to “Outcome-Based Education” is federal control over schooling (McManus).  Several years later, President Bush and the Department of Education released the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) act.  Essentially, “No Child Left Behind” sought to equalize education in classrooms by lowering the standards—a kick-starter for Common Core.  By the time 2007 rolled around, the Gates and Board Foundation had pledged $60 million towards the campaign (Pullmann).  Approximately three months after Barack Obama’s election, he bribed states through the “Race to the Top” (RTT) competition.  Before the standards were even written, “Race to the Top” offered $4.35 billion in federal grant money (in other words, our tax dollars) to any school willing to implement Common Core standards.  As author William P. Hoar of The New American put it, “The feds know how hard it is for state politicians to turn down ‘free’ money, especially in times of recession” (Hoar).  Unsurprisingly, 45 states including Washington D.C. signed the deal and took the grant money (Beck, The Whole Story on Common Core).  Since no congressional input was given, when it came time to write the new standards, there was no Congressional repeal (McManus). 

     Together, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), along with Achieve Inc.—“a non-profit that received millions in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” wrote the Common Core standards (Young).  Of the thirty members on the Common Core validation committee, only two were academic specialist: Sandra Stotsky—former Senior Associate Commissioner in Massachusetts and Jim Milgram, a mathematician and Stanford professor for 45 years.  According to Stotkey, they were “expected to say, apparently, that these standards were internationally benchmarked, they followed procedures that were appropriate, and a few other things . . .” (Reid).  Both Dr. Stotkey and Dr. Milgram, along with five other committee members, refused to sign-on.  By June 2010, the Common Core standards were officially adopted by the majority of states.

     With a fuller understanding of Common Core’s background, we can now observe some of the problems with a “one-size-fits-all” system.  Of course, the Common Core State Standards sound quite promising: “Research and evidence based,” “Clear, understandable, and consistent,” and “Based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills” (Common Core State Standards Initiative).  However, over the past several years, the CC Initiatives’ claims have not proven to be true.  Although Common Core certainly is “consistent” in dumbing down America, it is neither clear nor understandable.  Brian Farmer, a researcher for The John Birch Society and writer for The New American, went as far as to say, 

Three philosophical ideas appear to be an integral part of Common Core: statism, moral relativism, and progressivism. First, the statist goals of Common Core are implicit in the lockstep uniformity that is the central thesis of the program. There is a clear intention to mold people through schooling, to overthrow accepted custom and traditional values, and to weaken parental influence (Farmer).

Since the standards were initiated, many CC math problems have gained national attention.  Michael Snyder, a journalist for, wrote, “Unfortunately, these ‘standards’ are doing to public education what Obamacare is doing to our health care system – absolutely ruining it.  Just look at how basic math instruction has changed.”  He goes on to display several images of Common Core textbook questions that are utterly ridiculous.  For instance, in a video posted at the end of his article, an Illinois Curriculum Director explains that “under Common Core, it is okay for children to say that ‘three times four equals eleven’ as long as they can give the reasons for their answer…” (Snyder). 

     Although the program promises to be “rigorous” and teach “higher thinking,” one concerned mother stated that, “it just looks tedious” (Rich).  In his co-written article, “The Common Core Math Standards,” Ze’ev Wurman, a former U.S Department of Education official and coauthor of “Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade,” wrote: 

No state has any reason left to aspire for first-rate standards, as all states will be judged by the same mediocre national benchmark enforced by the federal government . . . give it some time and, as sunset follows sunrise, we will see even those mediocre standards being made less demanding. This will be done in the name of “critical thinking” and “21st-century” skills, and in faraway Washington D.C., well beyond the reach of parents and most states and employers (Wurman).

In addition to confused and frustrated parents, teachers are also speaking out against Common Core.  One teacher in particular wrote, “I am teaching the traditional algorithm this year to my third graders, but was told next year with Common Core I will not be allowed to . . . I am so outraged . . . my child is not going to public schools until Common Core falls flat” (Garelick). 

     The question is, what can be done about it?  How can we advocate for reform in our state and ultimately, our country?  First of all, before change can be implemented, further education is absolutely necessary.  Be sure to study the standards carefully, along with the “connections among corporations, politicians, and education reformers” (Beck, We Will Not Conform: Action Plan).  Furthermore, share the information gathered; nothing will happen if people don’t speak up against Common Core.  Many online outlets such as social media or blogs can aid in promoting a cause.  Shane Vander Hart, an administrator and frequent writer at Truth in American Education, composed a series of steps to fight the Common Core.  Along with learning and sharing information, Vander Hart notes the importance in contacting local school boards and state legislators: “Do not assume they know what is going on.  Encourage others to do the same.”  In conclusion to his article, Vander Hart suggests one final step: Find like-minded groups.  As an example to illustrate his point, Vander Hart stated that the Indiana anti-Common Core bill passed because two moms mobilized their local tea party groups (Hart).  As Glenn Beck, a conservative political commentator, once argued on The Blaze, “If we don’t save education,” so goes the country: “parents will need to stand up and challenge their school districts and even change school districts to enact change” (Gabbay).     

     Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Common Core State Standards should be removed from public schools.  From its inception at the 1990 “World Conference on Education for All,” to its official adoption in June 2010, Common Core has nationalized mediocre, federal-led standards.  Of the 30 members on the Common Core validation committee, only 25 signed-on—none of which were academic specialist.  Evidently, Common Core never kept its promoted promises.  In addition to dumbing down America, the new math standards are neither “clear” nor “rigorous”—as the Common Core State Standards Initiative claims.  Now is the time to fight back.  People need to educate themselves, speak out against Common Core, contact local school boards, write letters to state legislators, and find like-minded groups to connect with.  Above all, parents must be directly concerned with and involved in their children’s education.  As quoted in the forty minute Common Core documentary, “Building the Machine” from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), “Decades of research show that the single most important element in a child’s education is parental involvement. So, regardless of which side you support in the reformation of America’s schools, be involved” (Reid).