As reported by The Washington Post‘s Jay Mathews, The Education Trust collected 1,876 school assignments from 6 middle schools in two big cities in two states to uncover how well English, the humanities, social studies, and science are being taught in this age of the Common Core State Standards.

The results, especially when it comes to writing instruction, are hair-raising. For example:

  • “Only 4% of all the reviewed assignments pushed student thinking to higher levels.”
  • “About 85% of them asked students to either recall information or apply basic skills and concepts as opposed to prompting for inferences or structural analysis, or doing author critiques.”
  • Many assignments show an attempt at rigor, but those are largely surface level.”
  • “Relevance and choice–powerful levers to engage early adolescents–are mostly missing in action. Only 2% of assignments met both indicators of engagement.”


  • 18% of those assignments had no writing requirement whatsoever;
  • 60% only required a bit of note-taking, short responses, or just a sentence or two.
  • Just 14% had students write one paragraph, while only 9% asked for more.

Does Obama and the Common Core Standards he backed call this progress?