With Common Core Standards Minnesota Reading Scores Slide; Without Common Core Math Scores Best in the US

students in class


Students attending K-12 public schools in Minnesota are still performing below the proficient level on national standardized reading tests a full seven years after Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were fully implemented in the state. The national average is no longer significantly different than Minnesota in reading. It has not been since before the state adopted CCSS.

“Common Core is as big a change in education as Obamacare is in health care, but unlike Obamacare it needed no votes in Congress to become national policy,” Joy Pullman, executive editor of The Federalist wrote in her 2017 book, The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids.

These controversial K-12 public education standards, “garnered practically no notice from the media before the Obama administration, in concert with largely unelected state bureaucrats and a shadow bureaucracy of private organizations, locked it in nationwide.  That meant no public debate before the scheme was imposed upon a country supposedly run with the consent of the governed,” Pullman observed.

Common Core State Standards were adopted in full or in part by the governments of 46 states beginning in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration. Minnesota adopted only the English Language Arts standards in 2010 and required full implementation by all public schools no later than the 2012-13 school year.

Despite the hype from the public education establishment, the results of these new standards upon student performance, both in Minnesota and around the country, have not been good.  Common Core, Pullman wrote, “falls short in building a solid foundation of cultural knowledge and in teaching practical skills.”

In Minnesota, the most recent data from the “Nations Report Card” using the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reveals a the national average is getting slightly closer to proficient, but Minnesota’s performance in reading remains relatively stagnant over the last decade – pre and post CCSS.

Prior to accepting CCSS, the state scored consistently in the top 5 states.  Since adopting Common Core, the Minnesota has been in the top 5 only once in 8th grade reading. Fourth grade reading scores were flatter, but still reveal a slight drop overall from 1998 to 2017.

Minnesota did not adopt CCSS for mathematics. When compared with other states which did, Minnesota had the highest score on the national test every year in both 4th and 8th grades. The lone expectation was 2013 when Massachusetts edged Minnesota 8th graders out for the top spot.

Like other states, there is some opposition to Common Core. MACC, Minnesotans Against Common Core, planned a rally/protest against CCSS in February 2013 and has a petition to eliminate it. Though they have changed their name to Minnesota Advocates and Champions for Children, the group still supports eliminating common core.

“Our members are parents, teachers and school board members,” Linda Bell, co-founder of Minnesota Advocates and Champions for Children told The Minnesota Sun.  “I was a teacher until 2006.  I’ve seen the removal (of) teacher autonomy and creativity across my 25 years of teaching.  This is what happens when national systems replace state and locally-made decisions”

National Results

Blue: States that have adopted the Standards
Teal: States that have partially adopted the Standards
Yellow: States that adopted but later repealed the Standards
Brown: States that never adopted the Standards
Image by Media Kill. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Research investigating whether CCSS has had a positive or negative impact has been ongoing.  A 2015 report by Tom Loveless for the Brookings Institute of results around the country found the early impact to be “…quite small, amounting to (at most) 0.04 standard deviations (SD) on the NAEP scale.”

A “standard deviation” is a measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation or dispersion of a set of data values. According to Loveless, “A threshold of 0.20 SD – five times larger – is often invoked as the minimum size for a test score change to be regarded as noticeable.”

More recently, the 2018 Brown Center Report shows both math and reading scores have dropped in 4th and 8th grades. By 2017, all states had implemented CCSS, although at least 11 states have repealed or renamed them while 4 never adopted them.

Another significant change following the wide acceptance of CCSS is the drop in the number of states using the tests designed specifically to align with the standards. Initially, 45 states agreed to use either Smarter Balanced or PARCC as their statewide assessment tool for the Common Core State Standards. That number has dropped to just 16, including the District of Columbia, as shown on the map provided by Education Week.

Many teachers are unenthusiastic about CCSS, while others consider them just another requirement of their jobs.

At TeachHub, Jacqui Murray said that “The biggest pedagogic change to American education since the arrival of John Dewey is happening right now.  It’s called the Common Core State Standards.  Its goal: to prepare the nation’s tens of thousands of students for college and/or career.”

“If you are involved in any part of teaching, administrating, or planning, you are hold your breath, downing and aspirin, and crossing your fingers, knowing a storm is about to hit. You’ve prepared, but is it enough?” she added.

Common Core State Standards do not appear to be preparing students for college or careers.

One college entrance exam, the ACT, breaks down the “percent of college students who met college readiness benchmarks” for 2014-2018 – after most states implemented CCSS.

The percentages of students “ready” for college fell nationally in English, from 64 percent in 2014 to 60 percent in 2018, and math, from 43 percent in 2014 to 40 percent in 2018.  Reading readiness stayed roughly the same, fluctuating between 44 percent and 47 percent over the five year period and ending at 46 percent for 2018.

The most recently available ACT scores place Minnesota students at the national average for English 20.2 but above average in math by 0.9 points. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education has more data. English, the one set of standards in which Minnesota accepted the Common Core, is the one area of the ACT in which students scored average.

Even Bill Gates, a long-time supporter and major funder behind CCSS, realizes they are not doing well.

“Bill Gates tacitly admits his common core experiment was a failure,” author Joy Pullman notes.

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to bethlearreports@gmail.com.






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