On the PBS blog, economist Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute and American University expresses skepticism about the one-size-fits-all academic nature of the Common Core.
Lerman strongly supports youth apprenticeship programs.
Lerman is skeptical of Common Core for two reasons: One is that it lacks any evidence. In other words, as I have written repeatedly, Common Core has never been field-tested and we have no idea how it works in real classrooms, and how it will affect the students who are currently struggling.
The other is the dubious assumption that college and career skills are the same.
As he writes:
“…Two issues concern me about the debate. One is the lack of solid evidence about the effects of the curriculum on students. Education research, long a backwater of social science, has become more rigorous in recent years, backed in part by the federal government’sInstitute of Educational Sciences and its funding for rigorous experimental methods to test educational interventions. Yet, here is the same federal government encouraging a massive educational initiative without solid evidence documenting gains for student academic or career outcomes.
The second concern is justifying the Common Core on the highly dubious notion that college and career skills are the same. On its face, the idea is absurd. After all, do chefs, policemen, welders, hotel managers, professional baseball players and health technicians all require college skills for their careers? Do college students all require learning occupational skills in a wide array of careers? In making the “same skills” claim, proponents are really saying that college skills are necessary for all careers and not that large numbers of career skills are necessary for college.”
Lerman smartly traces back the origins of this astounding claim.
It is true, he says, that most employers identify certain skills they seek: “Nearly every study of employer needs over the past 20 years comes up with the same answers. Successful workers communicate effectively orally and in writing and have social and behavioral skills that make them responsible and good at teamwork. They are creative and techno-savvy, have a good command of fractions and basic statistics, and can apply relatively simple math to real-world problems like financial or health literacy.
But, he says, the Common Core misinterprets this consensus to mean that all students need the same level of academic preparation. He writes: “Employers never mention polynomial factoring. But what about the higher level math required by the Common Core? Consider algebra II, the study of logarithms, polynomial functions and quadratic equations. Many states want to make algebra II a requirement for graduating high school. Yet, a stunning finding produced by Northeastern University sociologist Michael Handel(cited in a recent Atlantic blog) indicates that only 9 percent of the work force ever use this knowledge, and less than 20 percent of managerial, professional, or technical workers report using any algebra II material.”
Trying to squeeze all students, regardless of their interest or wishes, into a common mold, he concludes, is a bad idea.