Lots of folks are up in arms about the "lowered" standards in high school, courtesy of Common Core. Meanwhile STEM preparation is degrading here, no CC necessary.
In 2007, MN adopted "better, more rigorous!" standards that they claimed were the tops in the nation, matching MA and CA. In these, all 8th graders were required to take Algebra through the algebra of the line. This would now be called "algebra 1", and algebra 1 was no longer a credit bearing course in high school. Also in these changes, all high schoolers were required to take algebra 2 before graduation. The standards defining algebra 2 covered only those subjects expected to be
learned to mastery. These standards did not include trigonometry nor logarithms nor other kinds of mathematics.
In 2011, the standards were rolled in. The state did not change the teacher credentialing requirements for 8th grade math teachers.
The new Algebra 1 class looked like old Algebra 1 to parents. Except it's only 1/2 of the algebra they knew. And Algebra 2 is about 1/2 of the algebra 2 they knew. But there's no way to be half a year ahead, though, for most schools, and therefore, for kids. So the new alg 1 is the only alg 1, and the only alg 2 is the rest of the old alg 1 and 1/2 of old alg 2.
Content including trig, logs, complicated factoring, circular functions, all of this is now in pre calc.
Limits, sequences and series, graphing of high order functions, de Moivre's theorem, etc. is now in most APcalc classes.
Now, schools cheat this by offering a year for AP calc AB, they claim, and a year for AP calc BC.
But this is a sham. A 5 of the AB test is mathematically no less than a 4 on the the BC, because the BC test simply does not offer that much more material than a competent calculus course would already have offered. While it does offer new topics, it most definitely does not offer multivariate calc, which is the 2nd term of calc in any semester-based engineering or STEM calculus sequence, and the third term at any quarter based university calc sequence.
So...to recap: we in MN, without CC, teach algebra earlier now, and as a result, kids leave no better off where they did before in terms of knowledge, but a year behind the titles of the courses they are taking. They and their parents are misled about what they know and what they have been taught when.
For the majority, they basically take pre calc, same as always. But for the honors kids who used to get a real AP course that really was the equivalent of the first semester of calculus, they are screwed. They no longer get that, or they only do by taking finding some school supposedly giving them alg 2 in 8th grade--who is qualified for that???? and then, they still only get as far as 1 term of college calc. Likely they waste a year instead of learning something for real.
This means without 2 years of supposed hs calc, they are not ready for calc based physics in college.
This can't be blamed on Common Core. This can't be blamed on ed schools, either.
This is the Cargo Cult of education (a phrase I coined here UPDATE! below) and the Cargo Cult of politics. We walk around, mimicking what real people once did, pretending that coconut headphones and a guy waving sheets as if they are semaphores on the tarmac will bring back the cargo planes.
The legislature pretended that decreeing students do something earlier was the same as doing it well.
The legislature pretended decreeing everyone take algebra 2 would make them capable of it.
The Dept of Ed pretended to concur and changed the content of the standard.
The publishers pretended to concur and changed the content of the books.
The schools pretended to concur and changed the content of the courses.
The teachers pretended to concur and gave everyone high grades.
The parents and students ...well? some pretend their schools are still great. Some are duped until college. And even then, most just want someone else to pay for the student loans they had to take for remediation, not yet angry about the remediation.
But the kids who used to be ready for an engineering degree program are no longer ready, and are losing ground compared to their foreign counterparts.
Until people admit reality we will keep playing these games.
From the MN dept of ed Math 2007 standards FAQ
"Some algebra II material is introductory in nature and lays the foundation for future courses. Students are not expected to master such material. For example, logarithms are usually introduced in algebra II, but mastery of the fundamentals of logarithms is not expected until precalculus or college algebra. For this reason, logarithms are not mentioned in the 9-11th grade standards and benchmarks."
UPDATE: E. D. Hirsch first used the phrase Cargo Cult here http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/7262 to refer to the state of educational research. My use of it was independent of this, and somewhat different.