New York Students Do Worse in Math as They Get Older, Tests Show

Published November 19, 2016

New York middle school students are scoring much lower on state mathematics exams than those in earlier grades.

Results of 2016 state testing data indicate 44 percent of New York 3rd graders were proficient in math, yet only 24 percent of 8th graders reached proficiency.

The contrast is especially stark in Central New York, where “only 15 percent of eighth graders scored proficient in math,” reported in October, while “third graders scored 40 percent proficient.”

New York State adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010. Publicized as more rigorous than previous mathematics standards, Common Core has shifted instructional emphasis from mastery of techniques to what its proponents call “conceptual understanding.”

Common Core Factor?

Denis Ian, a member of Stop Common Core in New York State and a 32-year New York State public school teacher, says the new standards have forced parents to get outside math help for their children.

“It is now a fact of New York primary school life that industrious students receive out-of-school tutorials to enhance their math performance,” Ian said. “Some Long Island parents spend as much as a few hundred dollars per week so that their child can shine in this new math environment.”

‘Greater Learning Gap’

Ian says children whose parents cannot afford to get them tutors will suffer.

“There will be a greater learning gap than ever before,” said Ian.

Nakonia Hayes, a retired teacher and principal and author of John Saxon’s Story: A Genius of Common Sense in Math Education, says less fortunate children need clearer learning standards.

“Math scores are dropping because the people in charge are making bad decisions about curricula that are needed for specific children’s needs,” Hayes said. “Children from affluent homes come to school ready to learn. Children from poverty homes do not. Curriculum for children of poverty needs to be structured and direct, to bring consistency and trust to these children who live with uncertainty every day.”

‘Never Critically Vetted’

Ian says the Common Core math standards were not tested well enough before implementation.

“The awful truth is that this new math was never critically vetted,” Ian said. “And the vetting it did undergo was meager. Its flaws forced the few in the know to resist signing their names to the finished product.”

Hayes says unproven learning fads have weakened math education, because the focus is now “on processes over results,” and instead of memorization and calculations, teachers stress critical and creative thinking for which the children are unprepared.

“Children, in effect, skipped learning the mental math of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing,” Hayes said. “This destroyed their chances to learn subsequent math topics, especially at the middle and high school levels.”

‘Results Matter’

Hayes says parents should fight for traditional math teaching.

“If the principal says it can’t be done, challenge that statement by going to the superintendent and then the school boards,” Hayes said. “Give examples of schools that use traditional math with a track record of success. They may be charter or private schools. It doesn’t matter. Results matter.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Lennie Jarratt, Common Core Math Rack Card, The Heartland Institute, March 30, 2016: