WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s been a rough stretch for supporters of the Common Core experiment, as they try to sell the need for the nationalized learning standards to an increasingly skeptical American public.

report cardBut Common Core enthusiasts believe they received a public relations gift this week with the release of a new report that finds learning among American high school seniors has flat-lined over the last four years.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress report, fewer than four out of every 10 American high school seniors is proficient (or competent) in their reading abilities. Fewer than three in 10 seniors is competent in math, reports WashingtonPost.com.

“The scores were little changed from 2009, when the test was last given,” Bloomberg.com reports.

This report is particularly interesting because the seniors were first-graders when President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) into law, notes Bloomberg.com. The federal law required schools “to demonstrate yearly progress and to show that all students are proficient on state standardized tests by 2014.”

That clearly hasn’t happened, which is why Common Core supporters (including President Bush’s older brother, Jeb) say states need the “rigorous” one-size-fits-all math and English learning standards.

In other words, because one heavy-handed, top-down approach to fixing America’s public education system failed, another one is needed.

That’s not only a stunningly naïve view, but it ignores the fact that Common Core actually represents a dumbing down of our education system. That means even if the K-12 experiment – which has been adopted by more than 40 states – is allowed to continue (and it probably will), future high school graduates will end up leaving school with fewer math abilities and less cultural knowledge than ever before.

We can predict this so confidently because respected education scholars note that Common Core math standards will actually result in students graduating from high school without having taken pre-calculus. That lack of math training will make it very difficult for them to complete a four-year college degree in one of the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, or math.

Likewise, Common Core’s English standards call for students to receive more practical reading assignments – “informational texts” – in lieu of classic literature that helps students understand the world, their nation, and their place in both. Common Core’s goal is simply to provide students with the no-frills reading skills they’ll need to function in the workaday world.

Thankfully, more and more Americans are wising up to the fact that Common Core will create many more problems than it will “solve,” and are trying to repeal the standards in their states.

If our K-12 leaders really want to improve student learning, they should support school choice. If parents were empowered to enroll their children in the best possible school they could find – be it a charter, private, public or computer-based school – student learning would grow, probably by leaps and bounds.

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