op-ed

INTERNATIONAL CONFIRMATION: America Is Dumbing Down Its Kids

An international assessment has confirmed what American parents have been protesting for years about Common Core — students are being dumbed down.

Since Common Core Standards were imposed on the states, reading scores for United States fourth-graders have declined, both for the average score and in comparison with their peers in other nations. Those scores of the lowest-performing students declined the most.

According to the results of the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, an assessment given to fourth-graders in schools around the world every five years, the U.S. overall average reading score was lower than the averages for 12 education systems.

Out of a score of 1000 the U.S. scored 542 in 2001, rose to 556 in 2011, and then dropped to 549 in 2016 after several years of Common Core. Students in Singapore topped the rankings on the PIRLS, with Russia, Ireland, Finland, Hong Kong, Poland, Norway, and Latvia — one of the poorest nations in Europe — coming in ahead of the United States with statistical differences.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which announced the test results, said countries that were peers of the U.S. have surpassed us while some who were lower are now our peers. Peggy Carr, NCES acting commissioner, said in a press release that this is a trend they have been seeing on other international assessments as well, “We seem to be declining as other education systems record larger gains on the assessment.”

PIRL measures two areas of reading skills: the purpose of reading and reading comprehension. Reading purpose includes understanding plot, characters, and themes and reading to gather information.

The Common Core Standards were a federally promoted public private education initiative during the Obama administration that was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Common Core was intended to narrow the achievement gap between upper- and middle-class students and those from the lower socio-economic levels.

PIRL has confirmed that the gap for America’s lowest performing students has not been narrowed, but rather has been widened.

We can expect Common Core to continue because it was codified in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Peter Cunningham, former assistant secretary for communications to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, wrote that ESSA mandates the very thing condemned by Senator Lamar Alexander. “Under the new law, every state must adopt “college-and-career-ready” standards. Thus, the new law all but guarantees that Common Core State Standards — or a reasonable imitation under a different name — will likely remain in place in most states.”

Common Core, with its Progressive teaching philosophy, is focused first on social and emotional learning and next on academic learning.

ESSA encourages schools to use computerized learning with computer adaptive testing, where psychological manipulation is being employed. Traditional textbooks have virtually been replaced by digital lessons.

Reuters reported that in 2012 technology startups for the K-12 market attracted more than $425 million in venture capital. Rupert Murdoch, owner of Amplify Education, one of the country’s largest education technology companies, estimated that K-12 education is a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone.

Bill Gates’ Microsoft and other Silicon Valley buzzards, circling overhead, smelled the strong scent of money and swooped in to grab their share of the goldmine. The result: American public education is spending nearly $5 billion dollars annually for digital tools without any evidence they improve academic performance.

No one seems interested in the sizeable amount of research that’s been done about digital learning — at least not Silicon Valley or the edu-crats who relish being at the helm of the very latest in education reforms — a fancy name for using children as lab rats.

Research shows that comprehension is lower when student read e-books rather than conventional books. Many students indicate they prefer digital text but admit that comprehension is better with traditional books.

Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys show that millennials strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning.  Because online reading is usually scanning and skimming, students complain they don’t absorb as much with e-books as with traditional books. So they prefer print when they need to “read deeply.”

A paper published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that students who used digital devices in classes do worse on exams than those who do not use digital devices.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported the findings of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) about computer use among 15-year-olds in 31 nations and regions. The study, published in 2015, found that students using computers more at school had both lower reading and math scores. The research was conducted in 2012 when the average student across the world was using the Internet once a week, doing software drills once a month, and emailing once a month. The highest-performing students were using computers in the classroom less than that. The countries and cities with the lowest use of the internet in school – South Korea, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan – are among the top performers in international tests. The study shows “there is no single country in which the internet is used frequently at school by a majority of students and where students’ performance improved.”

Many American students use computers on a daily basis.

Until we get the federal government and Silicon Valley billionaires out of our classrooms, the academic achievement of American students will continue to spiral downward.

Despite the claim by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that Common Core no longer exists, it remains in some way in every single state, as predicted by Peter Cunningham. So it’s up to us the taxpayers to buck federal and state bureaucrats and take the lead in stamping Common Core/Progressive education out of every American classroom and getting back to teaching children time-proven traditional methods with old-fashioned textbooks.

Dr. Carole Hornsby Haynes is a consultant, commentator and writer about education and cultural policy.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.