Archives for category: Curriculum

Gary Rubinstein, teacher of mathematics at Stuyvesant High School, author and blogger, reviews Eureka Math in this post and finds it wanting. He points out that Eureka Math is the program that is considered most closely aligned to the Common Core math standards.


Rubinstein picked several examples of math problems from the Eureka curriculum and found them poorly written or wrong.


Eureka Math will soon be the national curriculum or very close to being one. This is an important post. If you are a math novice, you may find it hard to follow. If you are a math teacher, please speak up and say what you think.


Steven Rasmussen is a mathematics educator and co-founder of Key Curriculum Press. He studied the mathematics tests of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and concluded that the tests are so flawed that they should not be used.

He has written a report, analyzing sample questions, which can be found here, by opening a pdf file. 

This is his summary:

This spring, tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will be administered to well over 10 million students in 17 states to determine their proficiency on the Common Core Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). This in-depth analysis of sample mathematics test questions posted online by Smarter Balanced reveals that, question after question, the tests (1) violate the standards they are supposed to assess, (2) cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use, (3) use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces, or (4) are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect. No tests that are so unfair should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. In fact, responsible government bodies should withdraw the tests from use before they do damage.

Neil McClusky of the libertarian CAT Institute blames advocates of Common Core for the public’s confusion about them.

They say it is not a curriculum, but others admit it is a curriculum.

They say it contains specific content that all children should know, but simultaneously say it has no specific content.

They say it was written by teachers. They say it was written by governors (who knew they had the expertise or time?) They say 45 states voluntarily endorsed the standards (before they were finished!). They say the federal government had no role in Common Core (and fail to mention that states were not eligible for billions of Race to the Top dollars unless they pledged to adopt college-and-career-ready standards, of which there was only one choice.

Of course the public is confused. They (we) have been fed a steady diet of lies about the origin, valdity, and efficacy of Common Core.

Does the Onion have secret sources inside the U.S. Department of Education? its stories are typically a week ahead of the real news. Some things are impossible to satirize.

“WASHINGTON—Citing the need to measure student achievement as its top priority, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new initiative Thursday to replace the nation’s entire K-12 curriculum with a single standardized test.

“According to government officials, the four-hour-long Universal Education Assessment will be used in every public school across the country, will contain identical questions for every student based on material appropriate for kindergarten through 12th grade, and will permanently take the place of more traditional methods such as classroom instruction and homework assignments.”

Oh, here we go again. Somebody is always banning something, and now it is the AP U.S. history course, on the grounds that it has an anti-American, unpatriotic slant. I haven’t seen the course and can’t weigh in on the facts, but it is troubling to see state legislatures deciding questions of history. That is not the right forum. Controversial issues should be resolved by competent scholars. of whom there are many. Typically, in history, there is not a right answer (even if the multiple-choice test-makers think so); in history, there are interpretations and debates. Students should be aware of those debates, not given pre-fab right answers.


An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students “what is bad about America.” Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.


Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) has introduced “emergency” legislation “prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.” Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”


Fisher said the Advanced Placement history class fails to teach “American exceptionalism.” The bill passed the Oklahoma House Education committee on Monday on a vote of 11-4. You can read the actual course description for the course here.


For other lawmakers, however, Fisher is thinking too small. Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern (R) claims that all “AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core.” She has asked the Oklahoma Attorney General to issue a ruling. Kern argues that “AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools.”


Advanced Placement courses are actually developed by a private group, the College Board, and are not required of any student or high school. They are the primary way that student can earn college credit in high school. Taking advanced placement course can save students money and are generally seen as a prerequisite to admission to elite colleges. A representative from the College Board called the claims by Fisher and others “mythology and not true.”


Other states are engaged in the same battles. Colorado jumped into this one, and high school students walked out to protest political interference in their studies.


Common Core and AP courses tend to get mixed into the same controversies, because the lead architect of the Common Core happens to be the CEO of the College Board. There is a lesson here about the need to keep politics out of curriculum-making. On both sides of the issue. To the extent that the curriculum is determined by politics, not by scholarship, our nation’s children are dumbed down and deprived of their right to learn.





David Greene, a veteran educator, reflects on the meaning of respect and wonders why our society no longer respects teachers–and if it ever did. He certainly respected his teachers. They changed his life. Yet he recounts a dinner where one young upstart dropped a condescending comment about teachers having “common and ordinary intellects.”


Students need respect too. He writes:


For kids, respect is as important as motivation, often more so. I am not talking about their respect for teachers. They respect those who respect them. They want structure and authority. The teachers they are most successful with are those who enforce the code of the school yet, at the same time, show respect for them.


They know that the best teachers understand what Elijah Anderson calls their “code of the street” in his 1999 book of the same name. Whether that street is urban, suburban, or rural, respect from their peers, who they have to live with outside of class and school, becomes critical. “Even small children test one another, pushing and shoving…ready to hit other children over matters not to their liking.” Why? To maintain respect.


The state of New York shows its disrespect for teachers by imposing phony evaluation systems (APPR) and discarding teacher-made state curricula for off-the-shelf curricula from vendors. What does the state do?


We get APPR. The Annual Professional Performance Review is a return to the use of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management of the early 20th century. Then, corporate robber barons used scientific management to attempt to make their industrial factory workers more productive. Today, new robber barons pay the NYS Department of Education to turn college-educated teachers into low-level industrial employees that productively churn students out as if they were manufacturing Model T’s.


Here are 3 examples of the negative effects of APPRs based on predominantly flawed data from flawed tests with manufactured cut scores.


“A teacher of the year, i inherited a gifted class whose collective score was 3.2 out of 4.0. For me to be graded as a competent teacher my following year’s class, had to average 3.7. However, my new gifted students only averaged 3.5…so even though the scores improved i ‘needed improvement’.”
“This year i taught students who have IQs from 56-105. One third of my students were non-readers. What are my chances of being “effective”? More importantly, who is going to want to teach these students under those conditions?”
“Ninth grade algebra teachers have higher reported student scores on their regents exams than do global studies teachers and thus have better APPR But does that mean they are better teachers? On the august 2011 integrated algebra “regents,” test results were weighted so that a student only needed to get 34% of the questions correct to pass with a 65%. On the unweighted august 2011, global history regents a student needed to get 72% of the multiple-choice questions correct plus at least 50% on the short answer and essay questions to get the same 65% passing grade.” How is that equitable?
We get EngageNY, NYS’s version of the common core. The state decided that the long time, top rated, and nationally renowned teacher developed k-12 syllabi were not good enough and so created EngageNY.


Who prepared this huge website filled with everything from policy to modules (curricula) and resources? The site says it is “in house”. Here is what I found:


NYS says:


“ is developed and maintained by the New York State Education Department to support the implementation of key aspects of the New York State Board of Regents reform agenda. This is the official web site for current materials and resources related to the regents reform agenda.”


The three real writers:, and


NYS says: “the Regents research fellows planning will undertake implementation of the Common Core Standards and other essential elements of the Regents reform agenda. The Regents fellows program is being developed to provide research and analysis to inform policy and develop program recommendations for consideration by the board of regents.”


The reality: these 13 research fellows (none NYS teachers) are paid as much as $189,000 each, in private money; at least $4.5 million has been raised, including $1 million donated by dr. Tisch.” Other donors include bill gates, a leader of the charge to evaluate teachers, principals and schools using students’ test scores; the national association of charter school authorizers and the Robbins Foundation, which finance charter expansion; and the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation whose mission statement includes advancing “Mayor Bloomberg’s school reform agenda.” Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Gates are expert at using philanthropy in a way that pressures government to follow their private public policy agendas.”


I respectively submit that they believe we teachers of “common and ordinary intellect” are no longer capable of curricula planning.




Several days ago, I posted a commentary by Alan Singer that was critical of the National Council for the Social Studies. Singer was disturbed that NCSS was trying to align its content with the Common Core standards, and that it had modeled some lesson plans on a proposal by the Bill of Rights Institute, which is funded by the Koch brothers. I posted Singer’s piece because it was interesting; I did not echo his criticisms, as I have no independent knowledge of the specific issues he raised. It is good to air the issues, and I provide room to different perspectives.


The president of the NCSS responded to Singer as follows:
Dear Dr. Ravitch:

Alan Singer, professor of education at Hofstra University, has recently criticized the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) and its work in advancing the study of civics, economics, geography, and history. In particular, Prof. Singer has tried to undercut NCSS’s work on the “C3 Framework” (College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards), by misrepresenting its intent and its content, and has challenged the organization’s integrity by alleging that NCSS is supporting the right-wing political agenda of the Koch brothers.
Your blog of January 5 cites some of Singer’s criticisms. People truly knowledgeable about NCSS, its mission, legacy, and membership will dismiss Singer’s attack—which was our first impulse as well. But his thesis appears to be gaining some traction, at least on the Internet, so we think it is necessary to add some facts to the conversation, in the hope of elevating the discussion to a level more appropriate to its importance.
Singer accuses NCSS and the C3 Framework of sacrificing social studies in favor of the marginalization of social studies content and conceptual learning promoted by the Common Core State Standards. The exact opposite is the case. NCSS and the C3 Framework strongly advocate that the study of social studies – civics, economics, geography, and history are just as important to our nation’s future as the study of Mathematics and English-Language Arts, which are the focus of the Common Core State Standards.


The C3 Framework provides clear and exacting distinctions by defining the conceptual knowledge and skills required for all students of social studies to be prepared for college, career, and an engaged civic life. Twenty-two states and fifteen national professional organizations representing civics, economics, geography, and history, collaborated in the creation of the C3 Framework. All agree that literacy skills are no substitute for the robust content knowledge, skills, and dispositions found in a rigorous social studies curriculum. All agree that a vigorous, inquiry-based social studies education is essential for the development of responsible, informed, and engaged citizens and provides a powerful context for the development of literacy skills for all students.


The C3 Framework is built around an Inquiry Arc…”a set of interlocking and mutually reinforcing elements” structured upon four dimensions:
Developing questions and planning inquiries.
Applying disciplinary concepts and tools.
Evaluating sources and using evidence; and
Communicating conclusions and taking informed action.
These are the pillars of the conceptual framework for the C3 Framework and speak to the heart of education for informed civic participation, the purpose of social studies. They offer a strong foundation for exactly the kind of “meaningful social studies education” and “education for democracy and citizenship” that Singer says is necessary.

The C3 Framework includes links to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts to assist states that have adopted the Common Core to identify the conceptual understandings and skills common to both. High quality social studies education enables students to build content knowledge, conduct research, evaluate multiple sources of information, collaborate with others to share knowledge and ideas, and communicate conclusions based on evidence through expository writing and formal presentations. All of these important skills, found in a rigorous social studies program, will prepare students to address compelling issues and problems in the 21st century as informed, engaged citizens.


Let us turn to the NCSS/Koch brothers connection. In a blog on January 5, Singer claimed:


“Desperate for Koch dollars to subsidize its convention and publications, the NCSS actually had agents for the seemingly anti-Common Core Koch brothers design one of the fifteen Common Core aligned lessons [published in an NCSS Bulletin].”
This line of attack, which Singer expanded upon in segments just preceding and following the quote above, is a classic example of asserting guilt-by-association, innuendo and misrepresentation. Yes, it is true that the Bill of Rights Foundation was and has long been an exhibitor at the annual NCSS convention. In that capacity it is one of over 200 exhibitors, organizations that represent every conceivable ideological stripe on the spectrum. Other exhibitors have included Peace Corps, Fords Theater Society, Mikva Challenge, and the Zinn Education Project among others.
As for selling out to right-wing zealots, featured speakers at this year’s convention included immigration reform advocate Jose Antonio Vargas, filmmaker Ken Burns, columnist Nicholas Kristof, Anthony Chavez, grandson of the late civil rights icon Cesar Chavez, and many others, who might be surprised at being so labeled. In 2013, the keynote speakers were Taylor Branch, John Lewis, Stephen Paine, and Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. You yourself were a keynote speaker in 2011. William Bennett and Howard Zinn were both keynote speakers at our conference in 2008. Through our exhibitors and our speakers, NCSS provides a dynamic forum for ideas that social studies teachers can measure and evaluate as they see fit.
Yes, it is also true that the Bill of Rights Institute was one of 15 organizations that provided a lesson plan to an NCSS publication (Bulletin 114) on how to use the C3 Framework; the wide range of other contributors included National Geographic, National History Day, Facing History and Ourselves, the Newseum, Mikva Challenge, National Museum of the American Indian, Library of Congress, the National Archives and others. NCSS Bulletins are funded by member dues, and have never received funding from the Koch brothers, as implied by Singer (or from any other of the “right-wing groups” that he speculates are influencing NCSS). NCSS publications are open to a wide range of viewpoints. Although Singer criticizes the latest NCSS Bulletin for excessive alignment with the Common Core, the lesson plans in the Bulletin are, in fact, directly aligned with the four dimensions of the C3 Framework, not with the Common Core State Standards.
A copy of the Bill of Rights lesson plan published by NCSS that Singer denounced is attached. We do not believe that any reasonable reading of the lesson plan will support Singer’s view that it is a result of a conspiracy in which NCSS “had agents for the seemingly anti-Common Core Koch brothers” write the lesson plan with the aim of achieving objectives like opposing “a national health insurance plan and the regulation of companies like Koch Industries that destroy the environment in the name of profit.”


We believe that any representative review of NCSS books and journals, which have published several contributions by Singer himself, will show that they are richly diverse and anything but a “sell-out of all principles.”
The C3 Framework asks students to analyze and evaluate evidence prior to communicating conclusions or taking action. We suggest that all of us follow that sound instruction.

Sincerely yours,

Michelle M. Herczog, Ed.D.
President, National Council for the Social Studies

Alan Singer no longer belongs to the National Council for the Social Studies. He explains why here.

History and social studies were marginalized by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which focus only on reading and math as make-or-break testing subjects. Now Common Core calls for “close reading,” analyzing text without context. It is impossible to understand history or social studies without context.

Singer writes:

“My problem is that in an effort to survive, the NCSS has largely abandoned its commitment to these ideas, twisting itself into a pretzel to adapt to national Common Core standards and to satisfy influential conservative organizations that they are not radical, or even liberal. I suspect, but cannot document, that the organization’s membership has precipitously declined during the past two decades and it has increasingly depended financial support for its conferences and publications from deep-pocketed traditional and rightwing groups who advertise and have display booths.

“According to a NCSS position paper, “The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) is increasingly alarmed by the erosion of the importance of social studies in the United States. This erosion, in large part, is a consequence of the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Since the introduction of NCLB, there has been a steady reduction in the amount of time spent in the teaching of social studies, with the most profound decline noticed in the elementary grades.”

“In an effort to counter the Common Core push for detextualized skill-based instruction and assessment that has further marginalized social studies education, the NCSS is promoting what it calls “College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework,” a campaign I initially supported. It recently distributed Teaching the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework: Exploring Inquiry-based Instruction in Social Studies (NCSS Bulletin 114) edited by Kathy Swan and John Lee. However, through its choice of partners, its rigid adherence to Common Core lesson guidelines, and the sample material it is promoting, the NCSS has virtually abandoned not just meaningful social studies education, but education for democracy and citizenship as well.

We recently learned that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has proposed to adopt a civics course designed by the Bill of Rights Institute, which is funded by the highly political, very conservative billionaires, the Koch brothers. Fortunately, Bill Bigelow of “Rethinking Schools” has researched the materials produced by the Bill of Rights Institute. Bigelow says that the Koch brothers have donated millions of dollars to the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes free-market libertarianism and above all, respect for property rights. The BRI was “launched in 1999 and funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, and David Koch. The BRI directors include Mark Humphrey, Koch Industries senior vice president; Ryan Stowers, director of higher education programs at the Charles Koch Foundation; and Todd Zywicki, a senior scholar of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, funded with corporate donations from the likes of Koch and ExxonMobil. Until 2013, the Bill of Rights Institute president was the Koch operative Tony Woodlief, who headed the Market-Based Management Institute in the Kochs’ hometown of Wichita, Kansas, and served as president of the Mercatus Center….”


“In its materials for teachers and students, the Bill of Rights Institute cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit. billofrightsinstitute_libertarianmssgAs one Bill of Rights lesson insists, “The Founders considered industry and property rights critical to the happiness of society.” This message that individual owners of property are the source of social good, their property sacred, and government the source of danger weaves through the entire Koch curriculum, sometimes with sophistication, other times in caricature. For example, in one “click-and-explore” activity at the BRI website, showing the many ways that government can oppress individuals—”Life Without the Bill of Rights?”—a cartoon character pops up with a dialogue bubble reading, “The gov’t took my home!” An illustration shows his home demolished.


“Educator resources for “Documents of Freedom” at the BRI site underscore this business-good/government-bad message: “When government officials can make any laws they please—and hold themselves above the law—there is less economic growth, less creativity, and less happiness. Entrepreneurs won’t be willing to risk time and money starting businesses. Writers and speakers will restrain their words. Everyone will worry that his freedoms can be destroyed at the whim of a powerful government agent….”


“Focusing narrowly on property rights to the exclusion of racism and issues of social inequality are not limited to history lessons in the BRI materials. One section on the website is “Teaching with Current Events,” and includes a lesson, “Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine Laws.” It offers quiet cover for Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, mentioned in the lesson’s introduction. Here’s the lesson’s first discussion question: “Florida’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ law states ‘A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.’ How would you put this law in your own words?”


“A follow-up question asks students to search the Constitution and Bill of Rights to support this law. But nothing in the lesson encourages students to search their own lives or to view Stand-Your-Ground from the standpoint of people who might be victimized by someone like George Zimmerman. The sanctity of an individual’s property is paramount—here and everywhere in the BRI materials.


“This lesson is especially disingenuous given that Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law was a product of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council—a Koch-funded outfit that promotes “model” conservative legislation. The Kochs not only pay for laws to be written and passed, they now pay for them to be legitimated in the school curriculum as well.”









North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction plans to adopt a high school course to teach the founding principles of American government, which was developed by an institute funded by the notorious Koch Brothers.


State high school social studies teachers would be encouraged to use curriculum materials prepared by an institute funded by the conservative Koch family, under a proposal the Department of Public Instruction presented Wednesday.

The Bill of Rights Institute, based in Virginia, had a $100,000, sole-source contract with the state to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take. The institute was founded in 1999 and receives grants from David H. Koch, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, according to a website on Koch family philanthropies.

The state Department of Public Instruction decision to “highly recommend” that school districts use the Bill of Rights Institute material comes as the state is embroiled in a controversy over teaching history – whether schools have students study the founding principles as the law requires, whether AP U.S. History meets those requirements and whether the college-level course developed by the College Board has a liberal bias.

The 390-page founding principles curriculum includes readings, activities, questions students should discuss and references to online resources for the 10 principles described in a 2011 law inspired by proposed legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by major corporations….


June Atkinson, state school superintendent and a Democrat, said the state looked for groups that could help write the founding principles curriculum but found only the Bill of Rights Institute. The institute did not return phone calls.


The institute collaborated with state educators, Atkinson said, and they requested feedback from teachers, who reviewed the work and suggested changes.


“It wasn’t a carte blanche, we’ll take what you have,” she said. “We wanted a balanced approach.”


But history teachers said in interviews Wednesday that they already have a wealth of resources available for teaching the founding principles. Some said it was not appropriate for a Koch-connected group to write public school course materials, and none knew that the state had hired the institute to develop a curriculum.


Charles and David Koch are active in conservative politics and finance an expansive political network.


People whose “principal concern is profit-making” should not develop curriculum, said Bryan Proffitt, a history teacher at Hillside High School in Durham. Curriculum should be developed “in a democratic fashion” by people closest to the classroom, he said.



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