Acton Institute Powerblog

How Common Core Will Increase Poverty

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DF_01_1[1]In his Epidemics, Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, wrote that the physician has two special objects in view: to do good or to do no harm. That same principle should be the special object of every educator. While they may not always know what is required to do good, the least they can do is to do no harm.

By applying that standard, it becomes inexplicable why educators are pushing for Common Core standards. A study released last year by a pro-Common Core group predicted that under Common Core’s stricter set of state education standards, six-year high school dropout rates will likely double for states adhering to the federally incentivized nationally-based testing.

The report released by the Carnegie Corporation in collaboration with McKinsey & Company found that teachers will not “meet the demand” of Common Core’s expected student achievement levels for those students already behind more than one grade level unless there is broader change in school designs.

The study found that under Common Core’s set of state standards the four-year graduation rate would fall from 75 percent to just 53 percent, while the six-year graduation rate would fall from 85 percent down to just 70 percent. The study also predicted that the four-year dropout rate would rise from eight percent to 14 percent, while the six-year dropout rate would climb from 15 percent to 30 percent.

The study stated that it would not be possible to avoid decreases in high school graduation rates by simply using “human capital strategies.” Even if every teacher was able to increase sub-proficient children’s proficiency by 1.25 grade levels per year for four years, those students who enter high school more than one grade level behind the standard would still be below standard level by the end of four years, the study found.

Failure to get a high school diploma has long-term, detrimental affects on a person’s earning potential. According to the Census Bureau, the average dropout can expect to earn an annual income of $20,241. That’s $10,386 less than the typical high school graduate and $36,424 less than someone with a bachelor’s degree. The unemployment rate is also consistently 2 to 3 percentage points higher for dropouts then for those who graduate high school.

The most disturbing correlation, though, is between high school dropout rates and poverty. Among those between the ages of 18 and 24, dropouts were more than twice as likely as college graduates to live in poverty. Dropouts experienced a poverty rate of 30.8 percent, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree had a poverty rate of 13.5 percent.

Dropping out of high school affects not only the student but all of society. According to a report by Northeastern University, the average high school dropout will cost taxpayers over $292,000 in lower tax revenues, higher cash and in-kind transfer costs, and imposed incarceration costs relative to an average high school graduate.

In evaluating the prudence of implementing Common Core standards, we must look not only at what it will do to push students forward but also how it will push students completely out of the educational system. Supporters of the new standards should ask themselves whether the benefits of Common Core will be enough to offset the side effect of increased poverty.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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