USA Ranks Low on International Test – Is the Ugly Common Core to Blame?

The movie Rosemary’s Baby portrays a married couple which moves into an apartment building without doing much research and was warned by friends about its unseemly history. Rosemary became pregnant and befriends some peculiar neighbors, who gave her a concoction to drink to sooth her anxieties about their decision. The concoction proved to be troublesome for a pregnant Rosemary and was convinced to continue drinking the concoction to rid her of all woes. The concoction corrupts her pregnancy with complications. A similar playbook from DC special interests swayed the states to drink the Common Core kool-aid and now the 2015 PISA test results may indicate an unsuitable ending for education in the United States.

The PISA rankings are often adored by politicians who have little knowledge of education. Although the PISA framework has flaws , many politicians use such scores to effectively defend their position that education in the USA is underperforming. What is the PISA test? From the PISA website:

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.

The gist of the results for the USA are worse than ever for reading and math. The National Center for Education Statistics reports the following:

The U.S. average score in mathematics literacy in 2015 was 12 score points lower than the average score in 2012 and 18 score points lower than the average in 2009, but was not measurably different than the average mathematics literacy scores in 2003 and 2006.

For science:

In science, the U.S. average score was 496, about the same as the international average of 493. Average scores ranged from 556 in Singapore to 332 in the Dominican Republic.

When looking at the USA’s overall progress in reading, math, and science, it appears we are not improving much as promised from the Common Core special interests.

(Picture is a screen shot from the article published by the BCC for the USA 2015 PISA results)

What is happening? Remember, in 2009 the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted rapidly by states due to the federal concoction from Obama’s Race to the Top to get out from underneath George. W. Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind law. Since then, many indicators are pointing to minimal and substandard improvement in national math and reading scores. Currently, the 2015 PISA results show the same trend and the concoction of Common Core continue to be problematic. Is the Common Core to blame? Maybe. To date, there is no major study that supports this claim, but there are plenty of indicators that suggest the standards have problems.

The state of Kentucky is important to watch because they were the first state to adopt the CCSS without much resistance. Although Kentucky state test scores are not aligned to the PISA testing framework, the experts who delight that the CCSS were international benchmarked should come to terms with reality and admit the standards are not working. Based on their flawed assumption, one could infer that our international standing would begin to improve. In Kentucky, the achievement gap is not improving. Minority students linger behind white students by 25 percent in reading and 21 percent in math. Overall, the scores for Kentucky students improved minimally for standards that were supposedly internationally benchmarked. Furthermore, the 2015 NEAP results (the nation’s report card) also indicate there is a slippage in reading and math proficiency for fourth and eighth-grade students. For fourth graders, only 40 percent of the students were found proficient in reading – 2 points down from 2013. Eighth-grade math proficiency were 33 percent which is also down 2 percent from 2013.

Currently, there have been no long-term correlative studies of international tests suggesting if the Common Core is working, but educators in the field know these indicators are not a surprise and have seen this phenomenon (or train-wreck) coming for many years. There has always been a disparity of recruiting qualified teachers for science and math. The current state of teacher-preparation in science and math are severely regulated under Obama’s Race to the Top (or bottom) policies and the Utopian Promise Zones. The best way to untangle teachers and local districts from such Orwellian education agendas is to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and take advantage of returning real control back to the states. Public education has an opportunity to improve under President-Elect Trump along with an environment that favors an Article V Convention of the States. President Trump’s pick for US. Secretary of Education has created anxiety in conservative circles; however, there is a chance to advocate for amending the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Such a revision should seek to explicit clarification of the role of the federal government in education. The federal role in education has severely narrowed curriculum and caused great disparities in education outcomes.

What are the 2015 PISA results telling us? The standards-based reform movement is not working, and we have an opportunity to correct the debacle of Common Core. The elitist politicians and think-tanks need to come to terms that the “baby” they created is ugly and it is time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Our education system and the concoction of Common Core creates an unsettling picture. If we do no correct it now, our nation’s educational system will have a similar ending as seen in the movie Rosemary’s Baby. Accepting this “baby” is not an option for America.

Jeremy Spencer

Jeremy Spencer is a conservative education activist in Georgia with many years of education/teaching experience. He is a former teacher and associate state school superintendent who holds advanced degrees in education, and has advised and written policy for state officials on education.

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