National standards don't meet Virginia's standards

Virginia would have to “dumb itself down” to switch to proposed national standards, writes Robert Holland of the Lexington Institute in a Richmond Times-Dispatch column. Virginia’s well-regarded Standards of Learning are “concise, specific, and straightforward,” he writes, while “the national version sounds like an exercise in groupthink.”

The proposed College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics appear to be highly tolerant of the “new math” mindset of emphasizing conceptual understanding more and computational skill less. The work group announces confidently that “we have taken a step toward the next generation of standards that are aligned to college and career-ready expectations and are internationally benchmarked.” New standards “must be focused on deeper, more thorough understanding of more fundamental mathematical ideas and higher mastery of these fewer, more useful skills.”

So is learning the multiplication tables a useful skill? You wouldn’t know it from these standards, which are woefully short of grade-level specifics. However, there are multiple tasks that encourage the estimating of answers. Isn’t that what’s needed in the 21st century: best guesses?

Other states with strong standards may balk at switching to the common standards, unless the proposed draft is strengthened significantly.

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  1. On the issue of “grade-level specifics”–isn’t that among CCSSO’s next steps?

  2. “…multiple tasks that encourage the estimating of answers”

    Can I use this skill set to calculate how much I owe the govt’ on tax day?

  3. Ha! There’s a “National Standard” for you: high school seniors must be able to accurately calculate the amount of income tax their parents owe the government for the previous year using only government-provided tax materials, without a calculator or computer.

    Probably wouldn’t be 25 seniors graduate in the whole country!

  4. What should be considered is the use of tiered standards. The Federal government should be setting the minimum standards desired for an informed, productive, populace. Individual States would then free to develop an higher standard based on the needs of that particular State.

    This approach would allow States flexibility in ensuring that their future workers have the knowledge needed for local industries and their voters understand the local history and culture (assuming that there is at least some history/civics component), while the Federal standard serves as a backstop to ensure that there is a broad level of shared education to promote mobility and a certain basic functionality.

  5. It’s hard to tell what interests are really driving the Common Core Standards efforts. I perused the website for about 30 minutes and on the surface it seems to me that the DOE of California would say it has the same objectives. And we have many years of experience of what that delivers. Since its only a small segment of the population that is following any of this work, this group can’t realistically expect to ignite some new spirit of educational optimism and effort. So I’d have to guess this is just the States taking preemptive action to perhaps get less onerous standards than what the Federal Government might create.

    As an aside, it’s not too surprising that the College Board and ACT are involved. So “market” forces are already at work 🙂