Discussing whether students would be better off if schools eliminated algebra as a graduation requirement, as suggested by author Andrew Hacker, Fox News host Pete Hegseth attributed students’ frustrations in math to the “mumbo jumbo” of Common Core State Standards. “They are setting [students] up to fail. And then we’re lowering the standards and we’re trapping kids in failing schools.”
Hegseth indicates at first that the Common Core sets the bar too high, thereby setting students up to fail. But then he also implies schools are “lowering the standards.” Either way, Hegseth is misinformed.
Common Core State Standards do set high expectations for students. Starting in early grades, the standards put forth rigorous, clear learning goals that establish a path that ensures students will graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career.
In fact, that’s why the standards were created by educators and experts from across the country—these leaders saw that the existing patchwork of academic expectations and flimsy assessments allowed states to lower the bar for schools.
As Delaware Governor Jack Markell put it, “We’ve been doing the academic equivalent of teaching our kids to play basketball by having them shoot at an eight-foot basket…But when you get into a game where your competition has been practicing shooting at a 10-foot basket, you don’t do so well.”
As for the “mumbo jumbo” Hegseth claims, Common Core State Standards introduce students to multiple problem-solving approaches to help them develop a conceptual understanding of numbers and functions.
A math-check by the Collaborative for Student Success explains, “It’s important for kids to learn multiple approaches to solving math problems so…they develop a full understanding of the concepts before they move on to more challenging levels.”
Still, students are required to know their basics down pat. “Students are expected to know their sums and products from memory and to be fluent with the standard algorithm for each of the four basic operations (the traditional ‘carry’ method, in the case of addition),” clarifies Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the Common Core math standards.
As the other Fox News hosts point out, high-level math prepares students to pursue whatever course they choose after high school—whether its college or a career or something else—even if they don’t have it figured out yet. Instead of doing away with challenging courses, states should ensure students have a progression of learning that prepares them to succeed—just as Common Core State Standards do.