Common Core Math Standards will reduce participation in higher-level math courses

by Grace

Common Core Math Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Courses

Will the adoption of CCMS push some school districts to lower standards for all students?

Common Core math standards (CCMS) end after just a partial Algebra II course. This weak Algebra II course will result in fewer high school students able to study higher-level math and science courses and an increase in credit-bearing college courses that are at the level of seventh and eighth grade material in high-achieving countries, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Federal pressure to eliminate higher-level math courses

Low-income students will also be hurt the most by the shift to weaker math standards. Since the Common Core math standards only end at a partial Algebra II course, nothing higher than Algebra II will be tested by federally funded assessments that are currently under development. High schools in low-income areas will be under the greatest fiscal pressure to eliminate under-subscribed electives like trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus.

Lower chances of graduating from college

Research has shown that the highest-level math course taken in high school is the single best predictor of college success. Only 39 percent of the members of the class of 1992 who entered college having taken no farther than Algebra II earned a college degree. The authors estimate that the number will shrink to 31-33 percent for the class of 2012.


CCMS are ‘not for STEM’

Two of the authors of the Common Core math standards, Jason Zimba and William McCallum, have publicly acknowledged the standards’ weakness. At a public meeting in Massachusetts in 2010, Zimba said the CCMS is “not for STEM” and “not for selective colleges.”

Incentives have consequences.

What can we expect for results in our high schools? Because CCMS-aligned SAT and ACT tests will cover, at best, only the first two years of a high school curriculum (that is as far as the CCMS go, despite all the misleading rhetoric about how advanced they are), they will incentivize our students to learn nothing beyond what is in a junior-high-school level curriculum in high-functioning education systems. Indeed, the CCMS tests will encourage our high schools to spend four years teaching students what is taught in two years—and by grade 9—in the educations systems of our economic competitors. As we have seen, two of the three CCMS lead writers have publicly admitted the college readiness level is “minimal.”


“Common Core Math Will Reduce Enrollment in High-Level High School Courses”, Pioneer Institute, Sept. 8, 2014.

Richard P. Phelps and R. James Milgram White, The Revenge Of K-12: How Common Core And The New SAT Lower College Standards In the U.S., Pioneer Institute, September 2014.

5 Comments to “Common Core Math Standards will reduce participation in higher-level math courses”

  1. Low income students already suffer from weak math standards, weaker than the Common Core standards. Low income schools are far more likely to NOT offer AP level math and science ALREADY. Common Core isn’t going to change that, but it may help those students be more prepared when they finally can access higher level courses. As for the schools that do offer AP Calculus, those programs are wildly popular among parents and are not likely to get cut.

    I teach university students who almost never have any AP coursework, let alone AP Calculus. Their current preparation is abysmal. I support any effort to upgrade the teaching of lower level courses such as algebra.


  2. “Low income schools are far more likely to NOT offer AP level math and science ALREADY.”

    This study predicts it will get even worse. Even if AP courses are popular among parents, there will increased pressure in some schools to cut them out.

    And the jury is still out whether the implementation of CCS will improve math achievement levels, but that is certainly the hope.


  3. The pressure to cut AP is financial, pure and simple. Look at the debacle in East Ramapo.


  4. I think the author and many others see CCS as putting financial pressure on schools, mandates with minimal funding that will necessarily require cuts in other areas.


  5. Upgrading standards is a necessary expense, whether or not one agrees with the particular standards. I am sure the authors would not be making that argument if schools were adopting the kinds of standards conservatives favor. The problem is many schools do not have the resources to both upgrade their standards AND offer advanced courses, which is unacceptable.


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