Common Core Does Not Prepare Students for College

Mary Clare Reim | June 14, 2016

( – A recently released report confirms what Common Core critics have suspected all along: Common Core State Standards do not adequately prepare students for college-level work.

The ACT report finds many concerning shortcomings in the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by most states. Notably, the report reveals:

  • “While secondary teachers may be focusing on source-based writing [essays written about source-based documents], as emphasized in the Common Core, college instructors appear to value the ability to generate sound ideas more than some key features of source-based writing.
  • “Some early elementary teachers are still teaching certain math topics omitted from the Common Core standards, perhaps based on the needs—real or perceived—of students entering their classrooms.
  • “In addition, many mathematics teachers in grades 4–7 report including certain topics relevant in STEM coursework in their curricula at grades earlier than they appear in the Common Core.”

Teachers who must adjust their curriculum to fit Common Core aligned state tests now find themselves in a bind. As the report finds, the Common Core math standards do not adequately provide a child with the skills needed to succeed in the classroom, forcing teachers to add on extra material to their limited instruction time.

Additionally, high school English teachers must now emphasize material that leaves students lacking in original thought and analytical skills, according to many college professors. For example, only 18 percent of college professors surveyed rated their students as prepared to distinguish between opinion, fact, and reasoned judgment—a skill determined to be important for college-level work.

The “one-size-fits-all” national standards are underserving American children. It is nearly impossible, and does a great disservice to future generations, to demand uniformity and place restrictions on the classroom that assumes one “best practice.”

Each child’s unique abilities require variation in teaching styles and curriculums. Common Core limits a parent’s say in their child’s curriculum, making the possibility of an education suited to his needs a near impossibility. Unfortunately, this report indicates that in an attempt to create uniform standards for achievement, Common Core fails to create the building blocks necessary to prepare aspiring students for college-level work.

The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke and Jennifer Marshall predicted the unintended consequences of Common Core in 2010:

It is unclear that national standards would establish a target of excellence rather than standardization, a uniform tendency toward mediocrity and information that is more useful to bureaucrats who distribute funding than it is to parents who are seeking to direct their children’s education.

Education isn’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution; it is quintessentially a state and local issue. Common Core forces uniformity on America’s ingenious system of federalism—which decentralizes power and allows different, but finely attuned policies to serve communities.

Yet initiatives like Common Core—and other efforts before it to establish national standards and tests—reinforce a misalignment of power and incentives, forcing states to respond to the demands of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., instead of being responsive to the needs of families.

Correcting that misalignment will come by infusing education choice throughout K-12 education, by ensuring every child can access options like vouchers, tuition tax credit scholarships, and education savings accounts in order to be able to finance education options that fit their unique learning needs.

Instead of more centralization, which further removes parents from the decision-making process, states should fully exit Common Core and work to create choices for every family. Restoring parental control of education is essential to establishing truly high standards.