Common Core and STEM Not a Good Fit Op-Ed by Dr. Sandra Stotsky

Should American High Schools Prepare any Students for STEM?  

Common Core Doesn’t Think So


Sandra Stotsky

When states adopted Common Core’s mathematics standards, they were told (among other things) that these standards would make all high school students “college- and career-ready” and strengthen the critical pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

However, with the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards end after Algebra II, as James Milgram, professor of mathematics emeritus at StanfordUniversity observed in “Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM,” a September 2013 report that we co-authored for the Pioneer Institute.

Who was responsible for telling Wisconsin’s Commissioner of Education when he decided to adopt these standards in 2010 that Common Core includes no standards for precalculus OR for getting to precalculus?  Who should be telling Governor Walker and Wisconsin business executives today that high school graduates taught only to Common Core’s mathematics standards won’t be able to pursue a four-year degree in STEM?  Why isn’t the Wisconsin  Department of Public Instruction telling local superintendents to make sure that an accelerated mathematics sequence is available from grade 6 on so that mathematically able kids in Wisconsin’s public schools can be prepared to enroll in and complete a full Algebra I course in grade 8 and have a chance to consider a STEM career when they plan their mathematics and science coursework in high school?

Superintendents, local school committees, and most parents don’t know that under Common Core their students won’t be able to pursue a STEM career.  In fact, they think that Common Core’s mathematics standards are rigorous.  They are not complicit in this clever act of educational sabotage, but those who wrote these standards are.  And their friends in Departments of Education or Public Instruction are.

U.S. government data show that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn bachelor’s degrees in a STEM area. Moreover, students whose last high school mathematics course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 percent chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.

It’s not as if Common Core’s lead mathematics standards writers themselves didn’t tell the public how low Common Core’s high school mathematics standards were. At a March 2010 meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jason Zimba, a lead writer, told the board that the standards are “not only not for STEM, they are also not for selective colleges.”   In January 2010, William McCallum, another lead mathematics standards writer, told a group of mathematicians: “The overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.”

There are other consequences to having a college readiness test in mathematics with low expectations. The U.S. Department of Education’s competitive grant program, Race to the Top, requires states to place students who have been admitted by their public colleges and universities into credit-bearing (non-remedial) mathematics (and English) courses if they have passed a Common Core–based “college readiness” test. Selective public colleges, engineering schools, and universities in Wisconsin will likely have to lower the level of their introductory math courses to avoid unacceptably high failure rates.

Both Professor Milgram and I were members of Common Core’s Validation Committee, which was charged with reviewing each successive draft of the standards. We both refused to sign off on the academic quality of the national standards, but we made public our explanation and criticism of the final version of Common Core’s standards.

It is still astonishing that Wisconsin’s Commissioner of Education adopted Common Core’s standards without asking the engineering, science, and mathematics faculty at his own higher education institutions (and the mathematics teachers in the state’s own high schools) to do an analysis of Common Core’s definition of college readiness and to make public their recommendations. After all, who could be better judges of what students need for a STEM major?

Wisconsin clearly needs to revise Common Core’s mathematics standards as soon as possible so that its public schools are able to offer the coursework beginning in grade 5 or 6 that will enable mathematically able students to aim for a STEM major in college.  Unless, of course, the governor, the legislature, and the commissioner of education aren’t interested in having American-born and educated engineers, doctors, or scientists.   If that is the case, then keep the Common Core status quo.

Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D, is professor of education reform emerita at the University of Arkansas. She was on Common Core’s Validation Committee from 2009-2010.  Her writings are available at:

Musical Notes on Common Core


I am thrilled to see a unique perspective from a music teacher on common core. As I reflected on my personal experience learning to play an instrument, I find the issue addressed in this article very concerning. First of all, I am not blessed with the natural ability of musicianship. I had to work very hard to be successful in playing the clarinet. I was not blessed with piano lessons as a young child and I had to practice daily to achieve what I have as a musician. Had I encountered the struggles and lack of math skills as a student, as described by this music teacher, I would never had continued as a musician. It was because of a partial music scholarships I was able continue my higher education until I obtained my degree and teaching credentials.  I wonder, what will the future hold, if only those learning to play instruments, are those that it comes naturally too.

As a public school teacher and a mother of children that were in public school (up until this year) I too have seen these changes in math curriculum. Especially in schools, such as our school district,  that use “fuzzy” math such as EveryDay Mathmatics. Here are problems she has seen affect her student’s ability to learn a musical instrument. Read the full article here.

1) An inability to conceptualize multiplication
2) An inability to deal with numbers in relationship to each other
3) An inability to conceptualize fractions or even understand what fractional terms represent
4) Difficulty in applying basic arithmetic to simple concepts within music
5) Physical handwriting skills/Motor Skills
6) Using information made up out of thin air emotionally based when writing essays on composers

The mathematical concerns (1-4)have been part of the Common Core debate.  The dumbing-down of our children’s mathematical abilities is described by Dr. James Milgram and this math teacher .  Looking at concern #5, there are valid arguments that common core’s removal of cursive handwriting and the continued focus on using computers and ipads, rather than physical writing, will continue to affect fine motor skills.  The last concern has been showing up in Common Core aligned curriculum.  Here is an example that is approved for use in Utah school’s, called ” Voices”, for teaching Literature and Writing.  You will see that as early as 1st grade, students are being taught to use emotions, rather than facts and figures to persuade and convince.

I agree with this teacher’s assessment of public education:

…I am completely alarmed on every level possible. I love my students, and I want nothing more than for them to become educated and positive members of our society as adults one day.  If we allow Common Core to become the foundation of our children’s education, the future of America will most certainly change for the worse.   Yes, our schools have slipped in the last two decades and need improvement.  But the Common Core mandate will only bring us further into the depths of producing a completely ill-educated society.

Week 2 – Call to Action – Sign Letter to Gov. Mead


Call to Action for Week 2.

Our governor needs to hear from his constituents regarding education in Wyoming.

A letter has been constructed and signatures are being collected.  This letter will be hand delivered to the governor next month. This is where numbers make a difference!

Please pass this on to others via email and social media!

The more signatures the more powerful our statement will be to Governor Mead.

Visit the link below, read and sign it!   Please read and sign!

Call to Action from Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core!

Call to Action, Week 1

Communicate Smarter Balanced Assessment Concerns To Legislators

Fellow Wyoming Citizens,

The Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability will be meeting again December 10 & 11 in Cheyenne. It is time once again, to speak to our elected officials about the concerns we have with the federally funded assessment, Smarter Balanced (SBAC). It is critical to contact these elected officials and voice your concern with Wyoming’s participation in SBAC.

To preview the minutes from the committee’s last meeting in October, click here:

For your convenience, we have provided a list of 3 items that you can choose from to address a letter to this committee. This letter does not have to be lengthy, and can be as simple as asking the committee to not move forward with Smarter Balanced in the subject line of your email. You can also choose to research the specific issues more thoroughly before submitting your letter, and a source for each statement is provided for your use.

Please send the email to the Select Committee and “cc”  the entire legislature and Governor Mead.

Select Committee (copy and paste these into “To” line):,,,,,,,,,

Governor Mead (copy and paste this into “CC” line):

Wyoming Legislature (copy and paste these into “CC” line):,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


1) Wyoming will have to partner with enough states to achieve a total number of 1 million students tested in order to receive the estimated testing cost of $28.00/student. This is not an accurate comparison to Wyoming’s current test, PAWS.  Furthermore, we still do not have a comprehensive cost analysis of SBAC to include; computer hardware, support staff, technology requirements & staff development/training.

Source: (paragraph 2, page 6)

2) The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium received an additional $15.8 million dollar federal grant and is using it to develop ‘curriculum materials’, among other things. Remember the local control assurance that we were given upon adoption of common core: “this is standards, not curriculum”.


3) The Wyoming State Board of Education lists several disadvantages of SBAC, including loss of local control & “one more step to a national curriculum/CCSS”, etc. Why would we surrender state autonomy over our assessments that are used for Wyoming students and factor into Wyoming teacher accountability?

Source:—october-7.pdf (page 11)

As Wyoming citizens, our collective voice can make a difference.
Thank you for taking the time to contribute your part in this endeavor.
Please look for another action item from Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core next week. The action items will be centered on issues with the federally funded assessment, Smarter Balanced at this time. We will continue this weekly effort until the committee meets in December.

Learn more by visiting:

Teton County Concerned Citizens to host Stop CC Presentation

The following is an email sent out by Teton County Concerned Citizens About Common Core.  They have asked that I speak to a group in Jackson, Wyoming.  I hope many attend and can spread the information across our beautiful state!

Common Core Presentation

What They Are NOT Telling You About Your Child’s Education!

Not exactly sure what it is? Still have ?’s, Myths vs Facts? Is there more to it? Why should parents care? What can we do as parents?Why are teachers not allowed to give their true opinion?

Christy Hooley, former Wyoming school teacher will be presenting research on the history of school reform and its latest push with Common Core. She will have updated information on the Common Core Implentation Timeline and Data Collection.

Bring Friends! Take the Time to Learn More! Find Out How Common Core Will Affect Your Child’s Future!

Saturday, November 16th at 2:00

Cowboy Village Pavilion. 120 Flat Creek Drive

Sponsored by Teton County Citizens Concerned About Common Core


High School kids get it!! School Boards and Legislators…Not so much!

Recently high school students have come into the for front of the anti-common core movement! What a thrill to see these young people understand something of such great importance and realize they can and should speak out. To hear, in their words, its potential affects to their future and especially to the teachers that helped foster their love of education, is powerful and encouraging!

The first is Patrick Richardson, from Arkansas, who blasted through Common Core in his power point presentations and speeches to his legislators. He did such a fabulous job putting together a website for those fighting common core in Arkansas, they asked if he would put together a PowerPoint presentation. What he created floored those that have been in this fight for sometime. I LOVE how he was not only able to present accurate and compelling evidence against common core, but also put a humorous spin on it.

This next student, Ethan Young, a high school student in Tennessee speaks eloquently in this video. It is AMAZING how much he was able to present during the brief five minutes he was given to speak. You will notice that those in the audience are teachers and hearing their applause when he slams the teacher evaluation process is encouraging. Ethan states his opinion of the teacher evaluation process, calling them,”…subjective anxiety producers [that] do more to damage a teacher’s self esteem than you realize.”

“Erroneous evaluation coupled with strategic compensation presents a punitive model that as a student is like watching your teacher jump through flaming hoops to earn a score.”

“A teacher cannot be evaluated without his students, because as a craft, teaching is an interaction. Thus, how can you gauge a teacher’s success with no control of a student’s participation or interest? I stand before you because I care about education but also because I want to support my teachers… This relationship is at the heart of instruction and there will never be a system by which it is accurately measured.”

As a teacher, I say, BRAVO!!  Take five minutes to watch this outstanding speech.

Article: “Former Teacher Blasts Common Core”


The Green River Star printed an article on the front page of the paper that was published on November 1st. It gave a brief report on the presentation I gave in Rock Springs last week called, Common Core: What They Are NOT Telling You! I hope that you have the opportunity to read it. It is titled, Former Teacher Blasts Common Core, and can be read here.

I would like to  thank David Martin, editor at the Green River Star, for attending my presentation last week and reporting on my presentation in an unbiased manner.

There were a few things that were reported incorrectly that I’d like to correct. .

James Milgram was actually on the Common Core “Validation Committee” that was created to put their stamp of approval on CC.  Also, it is the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), NOT the AASA (as stated in the article), a group of superintendents that hold the copyright to the standards. The CCSSO, or “Superintendents’ Club”, as I’ve heard it referred to, is a private group with no accountability to voters. This makes it in-valid and un-American, as far as governance goes.

The CCSSO has a stated mission: to disaggregate student data. Disaggregate means to take away anonymity.    It stated on their website that one of  their goals is to disaggregate (personally identify) the data that will be collected on students.  Here is a link to the information on their website stating they have goals to change how data is used and shared.

I am grateful for the unbiased reporting and hope that this will help spark the interest of those in our communities as to allow them to learn more about what changes are happening to our local schools.

I will continue doing several presentations around our county.  I have recently been asked to speak to a group of concerned citizens in Teton County in Jackson on the 16th.   I will also be speaking with the Conservative Woman’s Group with several others that have been researching all the pieces that the Common Core State Standards Initiative brings with it.