Does Common Core Provide an International Benchmark?

A common myth, says Jim Stergios, bandied around American education currently is that the Common Core national standards are internationally benchmarked. According to Stergios writing at, this claim is highly questionable at best, and outright false at worst.

The question of whether Common Core standards are internationally benchmarked boils down to whether we think the new national standards will make our country's classroom content comparable to the content taught in the best-performing nations.

Stergios doesn't think it does:

"The answer is no… The facts show the Common Core standards to be mediocre in rigor and below what high achieving nations expect of their students."

The only mathematician on Common Core Validation Committee, Prof. R. James Milgram of Stanford University, doesn't think so either. In fact, he even refused to sign them.

"This is where the problem with these standards is most marked," wrote Milgram in his refusal letter.

"While the difference between these standards and those of the top states at the end of eighth grade is perhaps somewhat more than one year, the difference is more like two years when compared to the expectations of the high-achieving countries — particularly most of the nations of East Asia."

Prof. Sandra Stotsky of the Univeristy of Arkansas, another of the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign on to them and wrote:

"The two English-speaking areas for which I could find assessment material (British Columbia and Ireland) have far more demanding requirements for college readiness."

Stotsky claims that the British Commonwealth examinations she has witnessed were far more demanding in reading and literature in terms of the knowledge base students needed for taking and passing them.

"No material was ever provided to the Validation Committee or to the public on the specific college readiness expectations of other leading nations in mathematics or language and literature."

Stergios believes that Common Core standards are not all that they're advertised to be and invites people to be aware of what these eminent academics think.

Prof. William McCallum of the University of Arizona, one of the three writers of the mathematics standards, when speaking to a forum of mathematicians, said:

"While acknowledging the concerns about front-loading demands in early grades, [McCallum] said that the overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [with] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels."

This comes after Alabama Gov. Bentley's overturning of Alabama's adoption of the Common Core Standards Initiative in a vote this week.

Stotsky told the Statehouse meeting that Common Core's English standards for Grades 6-12 are mediocre and lack comparisons to other countries.

"Making this country competitive was one reason for developing national standards," she said. "But this goal was quietly abandoned … in favor or a single set of mediocre standards for all students."

11 22, 2011
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