Critique of Common Core Math Ignores Two Key Points

In The Wall Street Journal, Marina Ratner, writes that American students are already struggling against the competition. The Common Core won’t help them succeed. She notes “That there were “fewer standards” became obvious when I saw that they were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics. Many topics—for instance, calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry—were taken out and many were moved to higher grades.”


The author believes that the Common Core Math Standards are not rigorous enough and that the teacher-assigned math problems are not effective. However, the author fails to recognize two key points:

  1. The Common Core Standards establish a minimum, albeit much higher, set of expectations for all students. In other words, they set the floor. These standards are by no means meant to indicate how high we hope students can go. California has the option of adding 15% to the standards and could choose to include standards relating to calculus. As a principal, I wanted my students to take at least one math course beyond Algebra II, preferably and AP or IB course.
  2. The Common Core Standards define the what, not the how. It is up to the state, district, and school to decide on the how–curriculum and methods. Critics continue to point to math problems that are not a part of the standards, but represent the efforts of teachers in the initial stages of implementation.

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