Thursday, April 17, 2014

Problems with the Core

Much of this article: Can This Country Survive Common Core’s College Readiness Level? R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky (PDF) is old hat.

But, I don't think I've ever covered the effects of the Common Core on public colleges and universities, which this article also covers. The Race to the Top program, to which most states signed on, included a rule saying that any student who passed the Common Core final high school assessment--meaning they successfully completed and understood the Common Core's math curriculum--would, no matter what, be admitted to a main-sequence, credit-bearing math class in college and could not ever, for any reason, be placed in remedial math.
Nevertheless, the language in the RttT agreement indicates that states must place new students admitted by their major public colleges and universities into credit-bearing mathematics (and English) courses if these students have passed a Common Core-based “college readiness” test.

One might criticize the generality of the statement above by pointing out that these students don’t have to be admitted or that colleges can admit students who haven’t passed such a test. However, in many states including California the top 30 percent of students graduating from high school are guaranteed admission to an IHE ["institutes of higher education"] or IHE system. Moreover, only the chief administrative officer of an IHE has to sign on to this policy, not the relevant faculty. For the most part, this faculty knows nothing about the changes that Common Core will bring.

We find these requirements for Common Core states astounding because they apply to all public institutions of higher education, not just to those for which Common Core’s mathematics standards were intended [for community collge], according to the lead mathematics standards writer, Jason Zimba. And even if these requirements are intended only for non-selective postsecondary institutions, they are problematic because non-selective schools have often had to place newly admitted students into intermediate algebra (a course lower than “college algebra”) that was remedial at these institutions. To make matters worse, the first for-credit courses at non-selective institutions are often regarded as remedial at other colleges and universities, yet “articulation agreements” between two- and four-year public colleges seem to require that transfer credit be given. All that the PARCC and SBAC tests can verify is whether freshmen have to start with intermediate algebra if they do not pass, or could start with “pre-calculus trigonometry” or “pre-calculus algebra,” as the first two for-credit courses at a community college are usually described.
Basically, the Race to the Top nonsensically insists that if you make it through high school, you are by definition ready for college math. I'd sincerely love it if that were the case. After all, someone who is trying to get a college degree should be ready for college coursework. However, today, in our college-for-all era, that is far from the case. Across the country large numbers of college starters are currently placed in remedial math. For example, in Ohio, that number is 40%.

College is the new high school; kids who are failed by their high schools have to take high school math in college, only now they are paying for the prospect. Colleges have gone along with this because they make money on the students either way.

But what this new requirement will mean is a dumbing down of college math as well. The schools will not be able to flunk all of the the students who have no business taking college math, so they will simply make the classes easier and pretend that the students are doing college work.

The article also points out that, as far as STEM majors are concerned, almost no one who starts on a remedial track ends up in the science or tech fields.

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