Most teachers across Wisconsin will incorporate the Common Core standards into math and English lessons this fall. Joseph W. Jackson III / For the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
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Some critics of the new Common Core standards embraced by Wisconsin schools feel they set the bar for students too high too early.

Tina Hollenbeck, a former classroom teacher and homeschooler in Green Bay, believes the standards require abstract thinking that’s too hard for children in kindergarten and first grade. “That would be a huge stress that’s coming for these kids.”

Tuyet Cullen, an eighth grade math teacher in Madison, notes that Common Core has children multiplying fractions in fourth or fifth grade. Before, this skill was not usually taken up until sixth grade.

“Are their brains ready for that concept?” Cullen asked. “If (the standards) aren’t developmentally appropriate, they’re going to be too hard.”

Others argue that the standards are too easy.

“I could provide you with many sets of standards that are more rigorous than the Common Core,” Karen Schroeder of the conservative group Advocates for Academic Freedom, told state lawmakers in May.

And University of Arkansas Professor Emerita Sandra Stotsky, who served as an English expert on a national committee that reviewed Common Core, has asserted that the math standards will leave American students “about two years behind their peers in high-achieving countries.” She said the new benchmarks are “not going to be preparing American students for authentic college-level work in any subject.”

Madison school Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham agrees questions may be raised about “the developmental readiness of students in the primary grades.” But she strongly supports the standards and thinks school districts will be able to make appropriate adjustments.

“The standards aren’t perfect. I don’t think any set of standards ever are,” Cheatham said. “But they are a dramatic improvement from the standards that we had previously.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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3 replies on “Too easy or too tough?”

  1. What’s going to happen to the kids who can’t meet up to the standards? I’m an adult and I still can’t multiply fractions. I have a college degree (cuma sum laude mind you yet!). I think the new standards are going to miss a lot of students and is going to ‘package’ kids into boxes and a lot are going to be left behind. We need to rethink how we are educating our kids to engage them effectively so they learn at their pace not by some standard requirement. And we have been for so many years educating kids to get into college and look at how many college graduates can’t get jobs or have such ridiculous high debt they will never get out of. We’ve forgotten that we still need skilled laborers in our world and that some are more suited for that than a college degree. Yet we look down upon those who don’t’ go to college. We need to seriously rethink our education system!

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