Vietnam Oceania 068I certainly hope the new Common Core school reform works as planned, but I have seen these school reforms come and go and I see trouble ahead for this one. It seems to be based on the concept that everyone can be prepared to attend college and that setting up these standardized instructional goals and tests will improve American student performance compared to other countries.

I don’t know what happened to the concept of IQ, but I suspect it fell by the wayside under the so-called fairness doctrine. That doctrine says that everyone is equal and to be fair, life’s outcome must be the same for everyone. I doubt that more than 50% or 60% of high school students are equipped to complete college in four years — at least the college that existed prior to five-and-six-year completion rates, heavy remedial instruction, and grade inflation.

What about the  40 -50% not qualified for college?  Are they stupid, unmotivated, or just unprepared? In the old scientific days the cutoff for colleges attendance was an IQ of 110, which is the 75th percentile. Only the top 25% were considered capable of college. No, those below that level are not stupid and may be brighter in some ways than some of those with higher IQ scores. More street-wise and more creative. It’s just that IQ scores are somewhat biased in the direction of abstract verbal reasoning which is mediated by the left side of the brain.There are many students who are bright, but don’t have the abstract verbal ability needed for academic learning, which is the forte of most colleges, especially selective ones .

In addition to native ability, children need parental motivation (even a good push), good nutrition, and a culture that supports education as an important and perhaps the most important quality for getting along in life .

The new core curriculum seems to be geared to the verbal, abstract reasoning side of the brain and will make the higher IQ kids even better prepared. The majority of students may have a tougher time and dropout rates may increase. Wealthy parents will employ tutors to make sure their children handle these more rigorous assignments — while other children may be left behind .

I believe the people behind the core curriculum are well-meaning and I have no argument against a national curriculum. Some oppostition is  based on fear of government intrusion and states rights. I’m not. If the states don’t want the curriculum they can reject it, although this will cost them some federal money .

While our school system needs lots of help and better teachers, it’s worthwhile to remember that we are a diverse country with many immigrants and uneven “playing fields.” Children in other countries have a more similar cultural background. Comparing our kid’s test scores with their kids scores is like comparing apples and oranges.

I truly do wish them well, but doubt we will ever see significant improvement by just rearranging the deck chairs on a troubled vessel.