Are Schools Trying to Make Our Students Dumber Rather than Smarter?(by Jessie Kerslake)


I chose the community theme of education, I would like to be an early education teacher some day so this was the best topic to me, I was able to volunteer in a family friends grade school classroom and it was the best couple of weeks I could have imagined, working with kids really makes me happy, and I feel as if I just have a natural way with them. Maybe because I am a child at heart and never really grew up that’s why I’m so great with them. Regardless I am very thankful for my time with those kiddos in that classroom.

One of the things I noticed being in the classroom was the change in the way certain subjects were taught from when I was a kid, esepcially math and my teacher friend said that the change was due to the common core standards. I was getting out of school when the standards were first being implemented so they really didn’t affect me but I am learning now that they affect all students now and that some parents and educators are really upset with how things are being taught now, and that they make kids dumber by teaching math in certain ways. I really wanted to bring awareness to common core, because I feel like it’s one of those topics that looks really good on paper but in reality is not very good. I also wanted to include some history about common core since not very many people know where it came from.

Becoming More Informed: A Proposal

What if schools are actually trying to make our students dumber rather than smarter? This theory is based on the common core approach that some states have required in schools. Common core is a hot topic in most schools, some people either love it or they hate it. For many of us, we learned a much different approach when we were in school and now they have completely changed the approach that we had originally learned, making it more difficult to help our children when they come home from school with homework. And in some cases we teach them our approach and because it is not the common core standard they will not get full credit for it. Take for example, the problem 8+4. Instead of teached a child to count on their fingers like what we learned to do they are taught to break down the 4, and make it 2+2+8, so that way they can combine the 2+8=10 and then add two more to get 12. They also are taught they have to show all the work on their paper in order to receive full credit. So why is this enforced in schools? What is the purpose of it?

Common Core was meant to be a way of fixing the No Child Left Behind Act, which was recognized nationally as a failure. Presented in 2002 No Child Left Behind was supposed to close the gaps in academic performance. No Child Left Behind set standards for schools and tested annually to try and gauge where students were in trying to reach those standards. No Child Left Behind also put more federal spending in high poverty schools in order to try and get students to have more resources to learn. But because there were just too many standards with No Child Left Behind, it was a failure. The standards became benchmarks that no school could ever meet and so national education leaders needed to make a change. The Common Core Standards were first launched in 2009 by state leaders, which included governors and state commissioners of education in 48 states. The idea was to make sure that every student regardless of where they were had the opportunity to be prepared for college and life. The Standards were supposed to bring real world situations into the classroom and every student around the United States will learn the same set of work in order to more “prepare” them for the real world. According to the National Review “Central planning works no better in education than in economics.” but on the other end of the spectrum the official website for Common Core Standards states “Unlike previous state standards, which varied widely from state to state, the Common Core enables collaboration among states on a range of tools and policies.”

Many believe that the adoption of common core in every state brings down every state’s standards to the lowest common denominator. Meaning state’s that are actually at a very high benchmark are taking a step backwards by adopting common core. But according to the official common core website “ The standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for success in college, career, and life. This will result in moving even the best state standards to the next level. In fact, since this work began, there has been an explicit agreement that no state would lower its standards. The standards were informed by the best in the country, the highest international standards, and evidence and expertise about educational outcomes. We need college- and career-ready standards because even in high‐performing states, students are graduating and passing all the required tests but still need remediation in their postsecondary work.”

Despite the facts being on a government ran website many people experience different things, many things look really good on paper but when set into motion don’t work exactly how people would want them too. There are many stories about how common core has made learning more difficult for students. Being in the classroom once a week I have seen kids struggle and thrive using common core, but because there are still kids struggling we as a country should be working to either dismiss common core and create a much a better program or we should be working to improve the current common core standards.

Students aren’t the only ones facing difficulty with the common core standards. Teachers face difficulty when it comes to common core. They often aren’t sure how to teach it especially since the standards are different then previous state standards. Everything in the education world is constantly changing and education is always a hot topic since it has to do with the future of our children. One of the difficulties teachers face is not knowing how to implement common core in a way that’s fun for students and also that makes sense for them. The National Education Association has five tips in order to help teachers come up with a way to teach the curriculum. The tips include coming with an implementation plans, including the voices of parents and students, providing flexibility since there is some transitions for states that were previously not doing common core curriculum, coming with accountability systems to make sure every students is understanding what they are learning, and finally making time and using tools to help ensure that every student gets the best education they possibly can. The article also states that school boards and elected officials need to help make sure common core is implemented right.

Part of another college class I’ve taken was going on to the common core website and reading some of the standards, part of the problem with the way the standards are written is that they’re are put very confusingly and without a good textbook to teach students with it’s difficult to come up with ways of making common core fun, and understanding common core and what you need to teach your students, because the standards state exactly what each grade level should be able to do. For example for a fourth grade math class the standards state “Express a fraction with denominator 10 as an equivalent fraction with denominator 100, and use this technique to add two fractions with respective denominators 10 and 100^2.” what does this really mean? How do you make that interesting for children? How do you make them understand? The example on for this piece of the standards that is on the common core website says “express 3/10 as 30/100, and add 3/10 + 4/100 = 34/100.” Teachers face the difficulty of not only trying to understand how the standards are written but also the difficulty of teaching it and trying to apply it to the real world, for me the way I would teach it would be having the kids think of it in terms of money, specifically change since it’s all part of one whole dollar. There’s a lot of extra thinking that goes on outside of the classroom for teachers. Part of the reason the standards were created was to bring real-world situations into the classroom, but they don’t state how, which is where teachers have to come up with how to bring them in.

One of the main issues with common core was the testing, students aren’t learning new information anymore they’re learning to memorize material in order to meet the standardized test that is placed in front of them every year. And if students aren’t passing the standardized test that they are forced to take they often are feeling like they are not worthy, they are not smart enough, they won’t make it out there in the “real world” which isn’t always the case, some students get test anxiety and literally can’t take a test without feeling overly stressed and sick to themselves, other students might not thrive in math or English but they thrive in other subjects like science or arts classes, does it make them any less because they aren’t great at math? Absolutely not. In an article posted by Rethinking Schools, they talk about the problems with common core, and they specifically state that standardized testing is a huge issue with the common core curriculum, stating “ Last spring, students, parents, and teachers in New York schools responded to new Common Core tests developed by Pearson with outcries against their length, difficulty, and inappropriate content. Pearson included corporate logos and promotional material in reading passages. Students reported feeling overstressed and underprepared—meeting the tests with shock, anger, tears, and anxiety.” and only 30% of students in the New York schools were considered “proficient” in these tests that they had to take and students that are not native English speakers, less than 4% of them passed these tests.

So what can we do about common core standards? According to Rethinking Education we should “we should defend our students, our schools, and ourselves by pushing back against implementation timelines, resisting the stakes and priority attached to the tests, and exposing the truth about the commercial and political interests shaping this false panacea for the problems our schools face.” People are starting to notice these standards are not working, last year in Seattle educators led a boycott of district testing and gained national attention for it. In New York this last fall, parents sent letters to their state commissioners of education stating “This year’s test scores are invalid and provide NO useful information about student learning.” Common Core was a great idea on paper but it’s not helping every child and needs to be changed or revised.

Annotated Bibliography

“Myths vs. Facts.” Myths vs. Facts | Common Core State Standards Initiative. Common Core, Jan. 2017. Web. 01 Mar. 2017. <>. This shows the myth vs facts of Common Core. There’s a lot of speculations on what Common Core is and this is the official website of common core so I think it’s a good source to use since it’s directly from the source. I used a lot of the facts in my paper and also tried to talk about the myths, even though it seems like some myths may be actually the truth.

Karp, Stan. “The Problems with the Common Core.” The Problems with the Common Core. Rethinking Schools, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 01 Mar. 2017. <>. I wanted to include a source that showed negatives of common core. I think that this is a good source because it is from an organization versues it just being from a blog. Usually organizations have money that go into them and it’s not just a keyboard warrior so I thought it would be a good source. The article provided a lot of good information about No Child Left Behind and how common core was thought of and what to do to fight back upon common core. It also provided very good quotes from New York school districts.

Strauss, Valerie. “Eight Problems with Common Core Standards.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 21 Aug. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2017. <>. Although this is another “problem” article I think some of the problems that are brought up are the way you think about them. Depending on what side you’re on it could be not issue for you and your child but if you’re completely against common core then I could see these being issues for you. I chose this article because even though it’s from a blog, it’s a Washington Post blog, which is a resourceful newspaper that has lots of research done around it. I think newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times are very useful resources.

Long, Cindy. “5 Ways to Get Common Core Right.” NEA. National Education Association, 2010. Web. 14 Mar. 2017. <>. This is a great article about how school districts and educators can get the common core right, especially because the common core standards are sometimes difficult to understand this provides a resource to make it less difficult to teach and provides ideas on how to make learning more fun for the students. I believe this is a good source to use since it’s from a national association about education.


One comment

  1. Angela Lara

    Hi Jessie,

    I was never aware of this issue within the education system until I read your paper. I decided to do a quick search myself to see why there’s such a decline in performance with students and it’s really quite terrifying. The common core standards seem to be the culprit and hopefully it is improved through time. It’s really astounding how it has not been addressed as much as it should- students’ skills and knowledge should be forever evolving over time in every way the school system can help.

    I think that your paper had a very good “voice.” You wrote in confidence and it was very apparent that you did your research and actually were invested in the topic of education within the community. My only suggestion is that the flow could have been improved in your conclusion. I think that the evidence is there but the ending statement could have been a bit stronger. Other than that, I genuinely enjoyed reading your paper and I learned a lot about this subject. Good job!

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