Common Core: Is the problem really standards?

When questioned in the debate re: his support for Common Core, Jeb Bush gave a mushy (and self-contradictory) answer .

When he was done, I wasn’t sure if he was for it or against it.

For his punch line, he reverted to the universal “we need to set higher standards” argument.

A couple of other candidates jumped in to praise higher standards.

Sounds like motherhood, right?



I’m not so sure ….


First, an analogy.

With some heavy rounding, I’m 5’ 9” inches tall.

Shocker  I can’t dunk a basketball on a 10 feet high basket.

I bet that a specialized coach could get my vertical leap upped by a couple of inches … but far short of dunking.

What’ll happen if the basket is raised to 11 feet?

Conceivably, I’d try harder and my vertical leap would stretch a bit higher …  but I doubt it.

Most likely, I’d quit banging my head against the wall and switch sports.


The Apparent Problem

According to numerous sources :

“In a recent comparison of academic performance in 57 countries, students in the United States performed near the middle of the pack.

On average 16 other industrialized countries scored above the United States in science, and 23 scored above us in math.

Experts noted that the United States’ scores remained about the same in math between 2003 and 2006, the two most recent years the test.”


The Oft-repeated Solution:

Raise academic standards and make them consistent from state-to-state

Bingo. Problem solved.


Primed by the above analogy, I started wondering whether the issue is really that standards are too low …

After some cursory web-searching, I can’t tell if the Common Core standards are really more stringent or just different.

Old-timers might remember when the U.S. was going to adopt new standards by going metric.

How did that work out?

With no evidence to the contrary, I’ll stipulate that the Common Core standards are higher and more contemporary.

In other words, let’s hike the basket up to 11 feet.

So, the analogous question reduces to: are we underachieving for our height, or just too short?


The IQ shortfall

Keep in mind the finding that U.S. students were in the middle of a 57 country pack re: science and math scores.

Where do U.S. students stand re: IQ?

Answer: Tied for 19th place in the world (list below).

In other words, academic performance seems to correlate pretty closely with IQ.

That’s a shocker isn’t it.

Of course, correlation isn’t necessarily causation.

Still, seems like a relationship worth looking into, right?


So, why obsess over standards?

Easy answer: Because it’s doable.

Just print up some new standards, mail them out … and declare victory.

You know, just raise the basket.

That’s a lot easier than making everybody taller … or smarter

Think about it …


IQ Ranks by Country

Rank Country IQ
1 Hong Kong 107
2 South Korea 106
3 Japan 105
4 Taiwan 104
5 Singapore 103
6 Austria 102
6 Germany 102
6 Italy 102
6 Netherlands 102
10 Sweden 101
10 Switzerland 101
12 Belgium 100
12 China 100
12 New Zealand 100
12 United Kingdom 100
16 Hungary 99
16 Poland 99
16 Spain 99
19 Australia 98
19 Denmark 98
19 France 98
19 Mongolia 98
19 Norway 98
19 United States 98
25 Canada 97
25 Czech Republic 97
25 Finland 97
28 Argentina 96
28 Russia 96
28 Slovakia 96
28 Uruguay 96
28 Portugal 95
32 Slovenia 95
34 Israel 94
34 Romania 94
36 Bulgaria 93
36 Ireland 93
36 Greece 93
39 Malaysia 92
40 Thailand 91
41 Croatia 90
41 Peru 90
41 Turkey 90
44 Colombia 89
44 Indonesia 89
44 Suriname 89
47 Brazil 87
47 Iraq 87
47 Mexico 87
47 Samoa 87
47 Tonga 87

Source: Intelligence and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations



Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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One Response to “Common Core: Is the problem really standards?”

  1. Sue Colletti Says:

    It would, however, seem that basketball teams could better compete and achieve if the basket was at the same height on all basketball courts.

    Likewise, it makes sense to me that all students in all states are expected to have mastery of specific concepts (e.g. fractions or algebra or statistics) at specific grade levels. Where I think Common Core gets into trouble is when it dictates HOW the concepts are taught. Leave that to the teachers!

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