Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center, New York, and Alan A. Aja, assistant professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College (City University of New York) here explore and explode the claims that the Common Core Standards will promote equity for the most disadvantaged students. The assertion is often made that these standards, because they are common and because they are rigorous, will lead to higher performance by all students. The theory is that students will learn more and try harder if the standards are made “harder.”

What Burris and Aja show is that the Common Core testing to date has widened the achievement gap between haves and have nots.

They write:

In New York for example, one of the first states to roll out the new curriculum, scores from Common Core tests dropped like a stone—and the achievement gaps dramatically widened. In 2012, prior to the Core’s implementation, the state reported a 12-point black/white achievement gap between average third-grade English Language Arts scores, and a 14-point gap in eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) scores. A year later enter the Common Core-aligned tests: the respective gaps grew to 19 and 25 points respectively (for Latino students the eighth grade ELA gap grew from 3 to 22 points). The same expansion of the gap occurred in math as well. In 2012, there was an 8-point gap between black/white third-grade math scores and a 13-point gap between eighth-grade math scores. In 2013, the respective gaps from the Common Core tests expanded to 14 and 18 points.

Despite these dismal results, the New York State Education Department and the Board of Regents decided to go full steam ahead:

Rather than heeding the warning that something is very wrong, New York’s Board of Regents adds the highest of stakes for students—their very ability to graduate high school. In February, the New York State Board of Regents established the college-ready scores that students will need for graduation, beginning with the class that enters high school in four years. These scores, which up until now have been known as “aspirational” measures, have been reported by the state in the aggregate and by sub-group for the past several years. If these scores were used last year, the New York four-year graduation rate would have plummeted to 35 percent. This low rate masks even worse outcomes for students with disabilities (5 percent), as well as black (12 percent), Latino (16 percent) and English Language learners (7 percent). New York Education Commissioner John King even told reporters that he was disappointed that the scores were not phased in sooner because the delay means more students would leave high school “unprepared.” He need not worry. With his preferred cut scores, most students—especially students of color, poverty and disability–will not leave high school at all.

The current path that is mistakenly called “reform” but might as well be called “destruction” will have terrible consequences for students, educators, schools, and communities, they warn:

In the meantime, the Common Core aligned-tests will be used to justify the continuance of market-based education reforms. This means firing teachers and principals based on test scores, closing urban schools with higher low-income populations and the proliferation of charters as punishment (which ironically scored worse in language arts and the same in math as New York City public schools in the latest round of Common Core-aligned tests). These strategies, straight from what economist Naomi Klein calls the “shock doctrine” school of economics, lead to further gutting and pseudo-privatization of the most necessary of our public goods, while continuing the false narratives that teachers and their unions are the problem or that racism, poverty and inequitable resource distribution are merely excuses.