Recent articles about the Common Core standards reviewed political disagreements on the Republican side, but left untouched any substantive criticism of a one-size-fits-all approach to educating our students. One recent article cited a fairly mundane third-grade requirement, understanding perimeter, as if it were typical of the Common Core approach.

I am certainly willing to accept the notion that we can find a reasonable set of goals for most of our elementary students, although I doubt that all third graders will be able to reason in the following way: “Knowing that 8 x 5 = 40 and 8 x 2 = 16, one can find 8 x 7 as 8 x (5 + 2) = (8 x 5) + (8 x 2) = 40 + 16 = 56.” (CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.B.5)

At the secondary level, I think the hope of finding a single set of standards that meets the wide-ranging abilities and interests of the population is a fool’s dream. If we want to engage our 14- to 18-year-olds, we have to show them relevance and encourage them to find a way to be interested. We should acknowledge that there are many pathways to success and provide access to several.

If a 23-year-old left high school, then got a GED, attended a community college training program, and then got work repairing computers or cars, did she fail?

If we accept a set of standards that under-educates those who need math and mis-educates those who don’t, have we failed?

Jim PerkinsWayne