The Common Core and the Achievement Gap: How Common is Success?

A few days ago, I published a blog post on the Politics of Reading titled “The Common Core and the Achievement Gap: An Introduction” in which I briefly outlined both sides of the debate – those who are proponents of the Common Core Standards and those who are opponents.  The central theme surrounding the standards and their significance, whether you agree with the Common Core itself or not, has to do with closing the achievement gap across socioeconomic status and ethnicity across public schools.  Unfortunately, not all schools (or school districts) are created equal – funding, resources, and institutional/community support make an impact on the way schools are run across the country.  For those who believe in the Common Core and its mission, having national standards will hold every school to the same expectation of academic achievement and give students an equal opportunity to learn and achieve.  Further, if students succeed under these standards, they have the potential to succeed in higher education.

But how successful has the Common Core been in securing this level of academic achievement?

Last summer, the Huffington Post published “Results Are In: Common Core Fails Tests and Kids.”  The article explains the results from a 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study that looked at high schoolers’ achievement under the Common Core standards.  Here’s what that study found:

“The average performance of high school seniors dropped in math and failed to improve in reading from 2013 to 2015. Performance was also down on both tests from 1992, the first year that similar tests were used.


There was a decline in the percentage of students in both public and private schools that are rated as prepared for college-level work in reading and math. In 2013, 39% of students were considered ready for college math and 38% were prepared for college-level reading. But in 2015, only 37% were prepared for college.


Worse, while scores improved for students in the highest percentile group in reading, they dropped in reading and math for students in the lower percentiles. The number of students scoring below “basic” in both subjects also increased from 2013. These were the students that Common Core and the high-stakes testing regime were supposedly designed to support the most.


Test scores for students in 4th and 8th grade who have been trapped in Common Core classrooms with Common Core curriculum for pretty much their entire school careers showed a similar decline in math.”

This sounds troubling, doesn’t it?  The Huffington Post article also makes the claim that most of the students who are failing these tests are either living in poverty, have a disability, or are considered English Language learners.  Network for Public Education Board member and professor Yohuru Williams, as the article explains, believes that these tests actually “feed into racial determinism in American society while closing doors of opportunity for Black and Latino children.”

If you type “Common Core achievement gap” into Google, you will be confronted with a slew of articles and reports that agree with the core message of the Huffington Post article I have shared with you here.

This Hechinger Report article published last spring explains that African American students have been faring much worse under the Common Core standards than their white peers.

Is this all to say that the Common Core has failed public school students?

Another article published by the Hechinger Report, titled “Common Core Tests will Widen the Achievement Gap – At First,” offers a slightly more optimistic outlook on disadvantaged student performance.  As the article expresses, “score improvement in years to come will be because kids truly are mastering more complex topics.”

So, readers – what do you think?  Do you think that the achievement gap can be closed through implementing national education standards?

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