Common Core Discontinuity (Updated 04-30-14)

Ellen and I attended the Common Core Town Hall last night, and were surrounded by friends in the audience.  The room was packed and included some families with children in school. Sitting next to us was a father of a 5th graders who drove from Stockton to hear the presentation. He saw a flier about the Town Hall on a recent visit to Nevada City.   Some of the best question and comments came from parents and grand parents with children.  One made the point this is an election issue.  We saw Superintendent of Schools Candidate Haas in the audience.

The panel included:

Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D., Brad Dacus, and Lydia Gutierrez, M.Ed.  Dr Stotsky served as one of two credentialed education experts on the Common Core Validation Committee, Brad Dacus is an attorney and President of the Pacific Justice Institute, and Ms Gutierrez is a 20+ year teacher and is also a Master Teacher for the UCLA Mathematics Project.

Reading a Union Other Voices by Shar Johns and Kathleen Kiefer titled: Understanding Common Core State Standards, I discovered some common core discontinuity which I will discuss below. Some of what we heard last night does not square well with what Johns and Kiefer wrote.

Johns and Kiefer: 

Enter the Common Core State Standards. In 2009, after years of declining student achievement, rising high school and college dropout rates and students entering but unable to compete in the global job market, these new, national standards were offered to states as a way to place our students on an equal path toward academic success and college and career readiness.

Heard at Town Hall:

These national standards do not compete with higher international standards, especially in science, technology engineering, and math (STEM).  Algebra has been removed from the 8th grade and moved to 9th grade. Chemistry has been removed from the curriculum, and physics had been reduced by half.  Our greatest global challenge is in technology leadership and Common Core gives STEM education short shrift.   

Johns and Kiefer:

The standards were informed by the best state standards already in existence, the experience of teachers, content experts, states, leading thinkers and feedback from the public. On Aug. 2, 2010, the California State Board of Education adopted the standards after lengthy discussion and public input.

Heard and Town Hall:

According to the panel California had better standards that those in Common Core. We gave up good standards for the privilege of going along.  According to the panel, there was little discussion or public input for California adoption of Common Core.  

Johns and Kiefer:

What are the Common Core Standards? They are a set of expectations that students are expected to learn at each grade level. The standards are not a curriculum. In a recent article published by The Union, Jan Collins was quoted as saying, “The curriculum should be under local control because nobody knows our children and our students more than the teachers that teach them every day.”

We could not agree more.

Lucky for us, the Common Core Standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate the curriculum used or how teachers should teach. Those decisions are determined solely by our local districts.

Heard at Town Hall:

This should not give the readers any comfort. The teachers and schools are evaluated based on the students common core testing results.  Think about that for a minute. If the teachers are going to be graded on common core, will they teach something else. If Common Core focuses on writing on the computer, will the teacher teach cursive writing?  If Common Core does not focus on literary works, will the teacher assigns the great literary works for reading, or the non-fiction as required in Common Core?  The teachers are going to follow the money, or in this case promotion based in the Common Core students scores.  Sorry, folks but this is the way the world works. Self preservation come first and anything else is secondary. 

Johns and Kiefer:

Are the Common Core Standards abandoning classical literature and basic arithmetic? Absolutely not. In fact, the English language arts standards require analysis of rich literature . . . 

Heard at the Town Hall:

According Dr Sandra Stotsky who was on the Common Core Validation Committee and she said that classical literature fiction has been removed from the standard, the focus is in non-fiction works.  While basic arithmetic is covered it has been made more difficult with more focus on the process, and not the correct answer.  Or, as one engineer dad said last night, “when my 5th grade son asked me for help with his common core math, I could not even understand the question.”   

Johns and Kiefer:

Our job is to educate our children for tomorrow’s challenges.  

Heard at Town Hall:

Common Core does not adequately prepare students for STEM careers. The nation has a critical shortage of engineers, scientists and mathematician, and Common Core does not support this global economic challenge.  In fact, it makes it worse by forcing students to enroll in Community College to get the required math, chemistry and physic before applying to a university when seeking a STEM career.

Two Final  Thoughts: 

Now we have heard from Shar Johns the Associate Superintendent for Educational Services and Kathleen Kiefer, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability with the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office.

We recently had lunch with Paul Haas who is running for Nevada County Superintendent of Schools,  and he said,  “I am not in favor of common core in its present form.”  

This is an election issue, and each candidate needs to make their position on common core clear and concise for voters.  

Parent can Op-Out of the Common Core Assessment.  The process and the forms can be found HERE.  Op-Out was the panels recommendation.

Update 04-30-14@10:00PM  More evidence that Common Core will not produce STEM college ready graduates.

This is the conclusions of a white paper by R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky, Published by the Pioneer Institute. 

Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM

The full paper is HERE 

That Common Core’s college and career readiness standards aim for admission to non-selective, community colleges can be confirmed by the May 2013 report issued by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) titled What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready. The Mathematics Panel was co-chaired by Phil Daro, described on p. 44 as chairing the Common Core State Standards Mathematics Workgroup. The question this report pursued was: “What is required to be successful in our nation’s colleges and workplaces?” The answer was sought in the “requirements of community colleges, because, by doing so, we can provide a very concrete image of what it means to be ‘college and career ready’.” The answer was an even lower standard than what Zimba proposed: “Based on our data, one cannot make the case that high school graduates must be proficient in Algebra II to be ready for college and careers.”

In September 2013, a Hechinger Institute writer reported Zimba acknowledging that students who do not go beyond Common Core’s high school standards could be precluded from attending selective colleges and that these standards are not aligned with expectations at the college level.21 Zimba is quoted as saying: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”

There are several major questions at this point.

First, why is this situation not indicated in the Common Core document? Or by the advocates of Common Core’s standards? Or by their many endorsing organizations?

Second, why didn’t those individuals and organizations capable of recognizing the crippling limitations of Common Core’s mathematics standards suggest an additional set of mathematics (and possibly English) standards that would prepare students for the freshman mathematics course that most majors in science, mathematics, engineering, finance, and economics (and, increasingly, in other areas) must take and pass successfully?

Third, given the limited mathematical literacy of most citizens and education policymakers, where did responsibility lie to inform local and state educators in charge of secondary school curricula about what was missing from Common Core’s standards? Likewise, who was responsible for indicating what had to be added for pathways that would lead to admission to selective colleges and universities? Who was responsible for indicating what was needed for STEM areas before and after state boards and departments of education adopted them?

Fourth, whose responsibility is it now to ensure that at least some (if not an increasing number of) American high school students will be eligible for admission to selective academic institutions in this country? This is no small matter since their faculty and students have propelled this nation’s economic, scientific, and industrial development for over a century.

We hear no proponents or endorsers of Common Core’s standards warning this country about the effects of the college- readiness level in Common Core’s mathematics standards on postsecondary and post-baccalaureate academic and professional programs. We hear no proponents or endorsers of Common Core’s standards advising district superintendents and state education policy makers on the kind of mathematics curriculum and courses they need to make available in our secondary schools if our undergraduate engineering colleges are to enroll American students.

At this time we can conclude only that a gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country, in particular on parents in this country, by those developing, promoting, or endorsing Common Core’s standards. We have no illusion that the college-readiness level in ELA will be any more demanding than Common Core’s college-readiness level in mathematics.

About the Authors:

R. James Milgram is professor of mathematics emeritus, Stanford University. He was a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee 2009-2010.

Sandra Stotsky is professor of education reform emerita, University of Arkansas. She was a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee 2009-2010.

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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3 Responses to Common Core Discontinuity (Updated 04-30-14)

  1. Russ Steele says:

    Paul Haas, Candidate for Nevada County Superintendent attended the Common Cored Town Hall Meeting and reports on his attendance here:


  2. Thank you Russ for your report, especially as I was not able to attend the meeting. With regard to the new approach to math instruction: I’ve read a number of specialized math books, and I can see some value for certain students with aptitude to go beyond just memorization. But for the vast majority of students, memorization of the basic four functions is a relatively fast and efficient method. History has also demonstrated once memorized, the vast majority of people retain the knowledge their entire lives. So, especially in the mathematics subject-matter, I’m seeing the CC approach as very inferior.

    That this is being proposed on such a broad scale without the typical testing/research is troubling. At a minimum CC should be first introduced into selected and representative populations where its effectiveness could be properly evaluated and compared.


  3. Dena says:

    Common core reading also leaves much to be desired. With common core reading you read a document and evaluate the document only on the contents of that document. The process trains you not to use your experience or knowledge to detect false information in the document. President Obama would love it if we accepted his words without question as it would give him a bunch of blind followers. What am I saying? He already has that. For more information, see the following link.


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