I received the following letter, addressed to the Georgia School Board.

Dear Diane,

I know that you do not support the Common Core State Standards, but I also know that you are willing to consider other points of view. Pasted down below is the text of a letter I have written to the Georgia School Board as they reconsider the CCSS at the request of the governor. The letter is also posted at the Mathematics Teaching Community here:

It would be great if you would post this on your blog! Thanks, Sybilla

Dear School Board Members:

I have been teaching mathematics at the University of Georgia for over 25 years and have devoted a large part of my career to issues of K–12 mathematics education. As a mathematics teacher, I am concerned about my profession and about the mathematics learning of students in Georgia. In that capacity, I am writing with comments, which I hope you will consider as you review the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M).

The CCSS-M are the strongest K–12 mathematics standards that I know of.

At the invitation of state superintendents, I have worked on a number of states’ mathematics standards, including Georgia’s and Texas’s. No standards I know of are better than the CCSS-M.

The CCSS-M were developed very carefully with repeated cycles of feedback.

The CCSS-M were informed by previous standards, including Georgia’s, with repeated, extensive input from mathematics education experts who are recognized nationally, and with input from states. The standards were informed by the best available research, including research about mathematics learning summarized in National Research Council reports. I know this because I was an active member of the CCSS-M writing team.

Serious professions deserve standards that are developed nationally.

I think that mathematics teaching is a serious and important profession on par with medical professions, for example. We expect standards for medical practice to be developed nationally by experts based on the available research. Why would we expect something different for mathematics teaching?

The presidents of all the major national mathematical societies have expressed “strong support” for CCSS-M.

This includes the presidents of the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and all the members of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences.

See

Having standards does not imply losing autonomy or creativity.

Some of the most creative contributions to art, music, and literature, occur within a framework. Mathematics itself operates within a framework and is full of brilliantly creative results. The CCSS-M allow for creativity and autonomy within a framework.

The CCSS-M need time and support to implement.

Right now, mathematics teaching and learning (at all levels) are not as strong as they should be. The CCSS-M can help us focus on where we need to go. Implementing them will require time, learning, and collective effort. Let’s use the standards we have and work together to make mathematics teaching and learning in Georgia strong and vibrant.

A copy of this letter is posted at the Mathematics Teaching Community, online at

https://mathematicsteachingcommunity.math.uga.edu

where teachers of mathematics (any level) may post comments.

Sincerely,

Sybilla Beckmann

Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics

Department of Mathematics

Boyd Graduate Studies Building

200 D. W. Brooks Drive

University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia 30602

sybilla@math.uga.edu

706-542-2548

So, I assume, given this letter, that Sybilla Beckmann thinks that children are on the same developmental schedules with regard to their abstract formal reasoning abilities, for only if that is so would it make sense to have identical standards and tests for all kids at all grades. I also assume that she thinks that every student of every program in every school should have identical experiences of mathematics as that experience is mapped by this one-size-fits-all set of national standards. It’s curious to me that anyone would think these things, but evidently there are people, even professors of mathematics, and not just ignorant pundits and politicians, who do. How very, very odd.

Let me rephrase that second sentence.

I also assume that she thinks that every student of every program in every school should have identical outcomes of their experiences of mathematics as those outcomes are mapped by this one-size-fits-all set of national standards.

Dr. Beckmann does say that she thinks that the kids will have varied experiences of mathematics within the CCSS framework, though I do think that she is underestimating the extent to which curricula will slavishly follow the standards.

Why would you assume she things every student will have identical outcomes? That’s not in any way implied in her letter. Nor in the Common Core.

Corey, I made no such assumption. A set of standards IS a set of identical desired outcomes. By promulgating a set of standards for all students to be measured by criterion-referenced tests, you are saying that all students should have these outcomes from their education.

So, should have not will.

cxs: Thanks for asking for clarification, Corey. I did not assume that she thinks that students will have identical outcomes. These standards are a list of desired outcomes for ALL students. They are measured by criterion-referenced tests, as opposed to normed tests, and the purpose of those is to measure attainment of a level of proficiency or mastery. If one supports the CCSS, then by definition on supports the idea of having a single set of desired minimal proficiency outcomes for all students, and I think that it’s crazy to want that or to strive for that.

We had a case here in Florida recently in which a teacher assigned to a student born with little more than a brainstem–one with no higher cognitive functioning–was sent a letter of warning because her student and the other extremely cognitively impaired kids in her charge were not making adequately yearly progress on the FCAT.

That said, I agree that the CCSS-M are a great deal better than the CCSS-ELA.

Dr. James Milgram, member of the CCSS Verification Committee for math, whose concerns about CCSS were ignored:

My post on CCSS aligned “Everyday Mathematics”:

http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/beware-of-everyday-mathematics/

James Milgram’s testimony before the Indiana Senate Education Committee:

http://hoosiersagainstcommoncore.com/james-milgram-testimony-to-the-indiana-senate-committee/

Thank you for posting this, and kuddos to Sybilla for writing it. I have TREMENDOUS respect for Beckman, as the woman quite literally wrote the book on pre-service preparation of teachers for mathematics.

I am just a student teacher right now (of math), but I agree that the Common Core standards for middle school and high school math do not represent a big change in the topics covered in grades 8-12. Mathematicians and math teachers have been generally agreed on that for a while. Math teachers would like to know what is being taught elsewhere and to have some consistency, because our subject depends on students knowing certain details. If the details are different across the country, it makes it difficult to share materials and is a problem when students move around. In other words, everybody agrees on what algebra is, and for the details that are somewhat of a judgment call, most people agree that it’s better to be consistent with everybody else.

What Common Core brings to math is the “Practice Standards,” higher order ways of thinking that are now finally going to be part of what math teachers are supposed to teach, even though good teachers have been teaching them all along. These make it clear that multiple choice bubble tests that only ask about picky little details are insufficient to tell if students meet the standards. I think most math teachers welcome having the backing of adopted standards for these skills so we have cover for emphasizing those. The NCTM has been calling for this for 20+ years. This should lead to more creativity and enthusiasm in math classrooms, from teachers and students.

I completely understand why elementary school teachers of all subjects including math and English teachers are concerned. The changes are bigger there, and there is nothing like the consensus among math teachers that existed before CCSS to build on. I am also concerned about whether the new tests will really be tests worth teaching to, or rather just what the testing companies can make the most profit from. Certainly they are going to be testing against these new standards before materials are in place and they will be testing students who switched curricula mid-stream, and it is in the interest of these companies to make public schools look bad. I also think that Arne Duncan and the federal government should play no role in whether states choose to adopt Common Core or when, and it would be better if a couple of states went first before everybody had to change, as our federal system was designed. But the implementation of the standards, particularly the tests, is a somewhat separate question from whether the standards themselves are the problem.

Common Core is huge: K through 12 and math and English. It is probably not all good or all bad.

“tests worth teaching to”

There is no such thing, IMHO.

I went to an International Baccalaureate high school. Those exams are all essays, even for math, and they are graded by examiners from other IB schools all over the world, given only years of studying a subject. Students have some choice in taking the exam to choose questions that match their own experience in class. Obviously, that kind of exam is much more expensive to create and grade. Preparing students for it is very different than preparing them for a multiple choice test. That’s the kind of test I was thinking of, not computer adaptive multiple choice tests or ones where students drag widgets around on the screen.

And again, I am speaking about middle and high school. All the testing in elementary school seems crazy to me.

I am well acquainted with the IB program, thank you, Brian. And as a long time AP teacher, I agree that those types of tests (Predominately essay, hand graded by groups of real teachers, with questions and answers regularly released) are better than most standardized testing “programs” that have been foisted upon students/teachers/schools and communities in recent years. However, I still believe that “teaching to the test”, narrows the curriculum and deprives students.

Regarding the Common Core, I will believe it is wonderful when it (and all the testing that comes with it) is adopted lock, stock and barrel by Sidewell, etc.

Ang,

Beat me to the punch. The only valid use of tests, which should be locally (by the teacher and/or department) produced, is for the student to assess where they are at in learning the given material. Not all classes necessarily need to have pencil/paper or computer generated tests.

It depends on where you are, perhaps. The CCSS math standards in Utah are MUCH different. We adopted something called “The International Core” (whatever that is) and threw out all of the old classifications (Algebra, Geometry, etc) in favor of integrated math. It totally stinks. They are giving Calculus concepts in 9th grade, when many 14 year olds are not ready for that much abstract thinking yet.

What is CCSS math like for middle and high school elsewhere?

How do you accommodate the 14 year old students who are ready for calculus concepts?

University of Georgia gets too much money from the Gates foundation to be unbiased. IMO

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/search#q/k=university%20of%20georgia

Grants: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/search#q/k=university%20of%20georgia&contenttype=Grant

Does NYU get no corporate funding? perhaps we can assume that faculty can make up their own minds and people of good will might disagree about educational policy.

Maybe there should be full disclosure when stating your support of a set of standards clearly endorsed by the organization who gave over $24 Million dollars to your organization. NYU can say what they want as well, just disclose the connection.

To my organization? I have no idea what organizations fund my university. After tuition and state support, my guess would be the NSF or NIH is the largest source of grants.

Well, I was referring to Ms. Beckmann’s support of the CCSS. If I wrote in opposition to the standards to my State’s Board of Education, I would reveal funding that might shed light on on my opposition.

But no one does that.

I understand that ad hominem arguments are easy to make, but they are not especially persuasive.

Dr. Beckmann seems to have published widely. If there are problems with her views on math education, no doubt they can be found in her publications. Here is her page at the University of Georgia: http://www.math.uga.edu/~sybilla/ . There are a number of links on the page.

Evidently Dr. Beckmann is oblivious to the high stakes test and resulting curriculum that have rapidly been forced down the throats of states via their governors. Does she not think educators know and appreciate standards? I wonder what motivated her to write this letter?

No, she’s hardly oblivious. But that’s a separate issue. The Common Core for Mathematics is fine. The implementation and high stakes testing are not. But they are not (and should not be) part of the CCSS. If you don’t like the tests, and I see no reason you should like them, fight them. But don’t throw out the good work done on the standards along with it.

YES!!!!! Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water! It is the TESTING that is issue here. The CCSS are not radically different from the NCTM standards which have been around for 20 years. Every teacher knows (including Sybilla) that students at a particular age are at different developmental levels. In a perfect world in which all children arrive at school with all of their basic needs met, there still will be differences. Nobody questions that. The issue is in the testing! Here’s an earlier post on Diane’s blog — written by Sybilla Beckmann! https://dianeravitch.net/2013/06/04/a-sound-vision-for-improving-the-teaching-profession/

That’s not the case– Please see this earlier post– https://dianeravitch.net/2013/06/04/a-sound-vision-for-improving-the-teaching-profession/

Letters in support of common core with undisclosed financial conflicts of interest from recipients of Gates’ funds at the University of Georgia. What a surprise!

Exactly.

Dear Sybilla,

With all due respect, considering your position and experience, do you have any experience with young children? Do you have an understanding of how young children, in the realm of Early Childhood – which goes to 8YO – actually are hard-wired to learn, or WHAT they are hard-wired to learn?

While these standards may be fine for older kids, I implore you to do some looking into best practices of Early Childhood, and weigh them against what is actually expected even of children in Kindergarten – 4-5YO. There is a reason, a developmentally valid reason, that Kindergarten was created in the first place – and Common Core is NOT that reason. It is, in fact, the antithesis of that reason. The “work,” the actual learning, of children at that age is primarily through play, whether totally unstructured or loosely structured. The assertion that “[t]he standards were informed by the best available research, including research about mathematics learning summarized in National Research Council reports” does not seem to include the research on the way young children learn best and most effectively; this letter by Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson Page sums up my own concerns neatly enough: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/29/a-tough-critique-of-common-core-on-early-childhood-education/ . They quote the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative thus: “We have grave concerns about the core standards for young children…. The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades….”

I have worked with young children long enough to know that this is not healthy for them. Most recently, last school year, I work with kindergarteners at a school where the children, by and large, come from comfortable (if not palatial) homes with family support and even academic tutoring outside school (yes, in KINDERGARTEN!), and by the time I saw those children in my music classroom, they were DONE. They were “stick a fork in me, I’m done!” done. They could write topic sentences and paragraphs with guidance, but they weren’t playful kids any more. It was heartbreaking for me to try, desperately, to get them to have FUN in music class.

So while the Common Core math standards may seem like a huge improvement to you, and while you may think that the resistance in elementary grades is simply because of the degree of change involved, don’t be fooled. A lot of CCSS in K-3 is just not right for small young children to be learning. There is simply too much, and not all of it is the best use of time and learning for children of that age.

And what evidence do you have of that? The writers of the CCSS do have experience with teaching kids at all levels, as well as knowledge of the research into what is developmental appropriate.

In addition to m anecdotal experience in Early Childhood and in elementary school, especially in lower grades, and in addition to what I have seen as a parent (to 2 kids who are ahead of the curve in their respective schools and still often frustrated by the math content), do consider this quote form the post I liked above from the Answer Sheet: “Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees [document here: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_K-12_dev-team.pdf%5D that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.” (Actually, on viewing the document myself, I did find one early childhood professional. ONE.)

The anecdotal evidence is also out there among the many many teachers of K-3 who are experiencing the effects of developmentally-inappropriate math (and, frankly, ELA) curriculum in classes of children not yet ready for so much seat time and so much direct instruction and so much abstract thought.

And I would dispute your assertion that [t]he writers of the CCSS do have experience with teaching kids at all levels, as well as knowledge of the research into what is developmental [sic] appropriate.” Most of them are high school or university staff. Would you argue that Early Childhood professionals have expertise about what would be developmentally appropriate for high schoolers or college students? There is also a gap between “knowledge of the research” and “experience that bears out the research.” I have “knowledge” on how houses are built, but nothing I would build would come close to being up to code. LOL

If you look at her web page at the University of Georgia it appears that she taught math for a year in a local elementary school as well as teaching courses for elementary and middle school math teachers. Her university web link is here: http://www.math.uga.edu/~sybilla/

Wow…she taught math for a whole year at an elementary school?

A whole year?

She really must be an expert.

TE: a year teaching elementary school is NOT equivalent to any expertise in Early Childhood. Heck, I’ve taught WAY more elementary school than she has; for that matter, I’ve worked with very young children longer than she’s taught elementary school. LOL

I once made the mistake of believing that kindergarteners were just little elementary schoolers. Then I had a couple of them growing up in my home, one of whom is not neurotypical. Nothing like living the reality to have one’s POV drastically adjusted. It’s what changed my professional focus from high school music to Early Childhood music; it’s what sent me to a Montessori preschool, among other Early Childhood settings, for a few years to see small children learning the way they’re “hard-wired” to do so. And it’s completely re-set the way I teach elementary music when I have the opportunity to do so.

The difference is profound when you immerse yourself in the settings.

I suppose you might think that dispite her research and experience in K-8 math instruction, she is unqualified to teach the classes in elementary and middle school math education or write books on elementary school math education. Do you think that her students at the University if Georgia are getting an inferior education by taking her classes?

I would certainly wonder if she *is* qualified to teach those classes, or at least the material geared for the earlier years, *despite her K-8 experience. The web page is short on specifics on her research into Early Childhood methods; perhaps you are privy to some knowledge not included there? I’d be curious to see the textbooks she co-wrote that deal with teaching the early grades, but I have not. Have you?

I’m sorry, but teaching a class of average 6th-graders does not equate to understanding Kindergarteners, any more than a pre-Kindergarten teacher is automatically qualified to teach high school.

Perhaps Corey and teachingeconomist should read the article you linked to, and at least consider the position that CCSS is not developmentally appropriate for K-3 and early childhood education.

I’m curious if Dr. Beckmann and/or colleagues at the University of Georgia intend to commercialize K-12 math kits in a box aligned with the common core math “standards.” As a result, the university and certain individuals at the university would benefit financially and receive royalties.

The letter did not disclose financial conflicts. Therefore, the letter cannot be trusted.

It never fails to surprise me that those who support Common Core never specifically state why THEY think they are better, providing comparisons between the CCS and other states. They only point out how other important people support them, as if consensus provides adequate evidence. It doesn’t.

Show me in the standards of CCS how it is better than the 2009 standards of Indiana, point by point, grade by grade and PROVE what you say. For a mathematician, that should be standard practice.

Interesting that at least two of her books were published by Pearson.

Please look at your old standards and then read carefully the new standards. ALL math teachers who have attended Common Core Training will tell you about 25 to 30 percent of the old curriculum has been moved up a level. Some topics are moved up more than two levels. Some topics of Algebra are being presented in 7th grade and Algebra is no longer the Algebra we taught just a couple years ago. Proofs in geometry are now being presented as Transformations and Euclidian Geometric proofs either by the two column method of Statements and Reasons for each statement or the Paragraph method using basic deductive logic is no where to be found in the new standards, so many of the so called experts need to actually spend time really teaching to the new common core standards. My guess is that we are hearing from those experts who never have had or will ever have actual time teaching K-12 students. Also, any one who would have their own child go through a K-12 system that believes ALL children learn at exactly the same rate and comprehend at the same level do not have sufficient knowledge and understanding of child development to be in charge of a classroom or school or school system. I am sending my Grandchildren to private schools so they will not be exposed to irresponsible people who should not be given permission to work with children. Maybe these people never had their own children or they probably did as I am doing. Where did Bill Gates children go to school. What did Bill Gates do when he realized that the teachers he had were not able to give him the education he needed. How can people like him tell the majority of people that they need to do exactly what he was not willing to do himself? People need to spend more time doing research and reading to help improve their knowledge base so they can make informed decisions and not just accept someone else’s opinion on what the truth is concerning what should be taught and when and who is qualified to do it. Think what you would want for your own child. What would you want for your child if he was slower than average in learning to read? The new standards make it seem that this situation will not happen if we have the correct curriculum and the correct teacher. Do you believe ALL children will learn the common core at the same rate? Will we have to retain a large number of children so they are all in step but one or two years behind? What about those early learners who want to move ahead at a faster pace than the common core? I know math presents an accelerated opportunity in California in 7th grade, but what happens until then? If you have had children, then you know that your own children may progress differently in different subject areas. Some may love to do math and others may be very good at learning languages. I know we are being told that common core does not mean they will all learn at the same rate, but then their is that test and guess what? All 4th graders will be tested and the result will tell us that some are at grade level and some are not. What are they basing their conclusions on to determine grade level? I would assume the common core and there we see the reason for a more and more and more rigorous curriculum and a more and more and more rigorous test. For about 11 years we were told that ALL students should reach the old standards by 2014. It did not happen, so the answer is to make as many students as possible look like Losers and teachers look unqualified as a result and so the answer is to make everything more rigorous and now the bar is so high that I am thinking of a parallel example using baseball. Players abilities are improving, but competition is great and to win a batting title you must hit around .350 and to increase your salary to the amount you desire you must hit higher than .350. So, you work hard and hit .340 and someone else hits .341, so you do not get the bonus in your contact. So, you decide to get an advantage by using a new drug to increase your strength so you will have an edge. However, your new contract says you must hit .500 to earn the bonus! Oh well, even the drugs will not help you get over that hurdle. The moral of this story is send your children to a school that understands ALL develop at different rates and have different unique qualities and interests and should love to go to school and love to learn new things and enjoy developing as individuals, so until something changes you need to send them to a private school or teach them at home yourself. I am sad when I have to say this because I am also a teacher with 40+ years experience working with children in K-12 schools!

So very well said, Mark! yes yes yes

What would you do about students who learn faster than the current curriculum assumes?

Some children are mathematically gifted from the very beginning. Those children are rare, and they need to be identified and given very special, very different programs. They need access, for example, to accelerated online programs and to other kids who are mathematically gifted and, importantly, very importantly, to a variety of adult mentors specially trained to nurture their gifts. We need the adults that these special children will become.

I am glad you find the argument that the CC standards are moved up to be as unpersuasive as I do. If the problem is that there is an entity setting a curriculum that all must follow, state or even district level standards are no better than national standards.

In Utah, there’s honors classes, so those kids are covered. BUT, no classes for those who struggle. You’re supposed to be special ed, on grade level, or above grade level. There’s an enormous chasm between special ed. and grade level that hasn’t been addressed.

Do you think we should have a fourth track in schools? My local high school has something like this, typically offering a Che,entry class, an advanced chemistry class, and an AP chemistry class. Perhaps there is also a hidden structure like this in other courses.

Re: “I am glad you find the argument that the CC standards are moved up to be as unpersuasive as I do.”

What makes it unpersuasive? If students are developmentally ready for a topic, or a topic is begun to be taught before its normal point in the educative stream, that’s a problem.

Meant to say “aren’t developmentally ready”.

“My guess is that we are hearing from those experts who never have had or will ever have actual time teaching K-12 students.”

You are wrong.

Does anyone know the total amount of classroom teaching experience that went into to producing the standards? Can this be ascertained?

Nancy Carlsson-Paige wrote that there was no one involved in the writing of CCSS who had any experience teaching young children.

“You are wrong.”

Oooh, that was persuasive. Could you, maybe, back that up?

Agree. High learner telling K-12 was is best for our students. As her letter states, she hasn’t taught in a K-12 classroom for the last 25 years.These standards need to be taught, revamped, adjusted, and evaluated before we test students with these standards.

Does not “higher learning” tell K-12 teachers what is best for K-12 students in every class in every school of education? Many who post on this thread say that some concepts on the math common core are not developmentally appropriate. How is it determined what is developmentally appropriate and how is that communicated to teachers?

“How is it determined what is developmentally appropriate and how is that communicated to teachers?”

TE: there is a reason that Early Childhood does not equate across the board to elementary education. The way that children learn up to about 7-8 years old is not the same way they learn as older elementary learners, which is not the same way they learn as middle schoolers or as high schoolers. There is a reason we don’t introduce solving for x in kindergarten (although I’ve seen time taken to try, in a local public school, in the past couple of years): their minds are not yet developmentally ready for that level of abstract thought.

Early Childhood specialists and researchers DO have an understanding of what *is* developmentally appropriate, but the Powers That Be are not listening. Hirsch isn’t listening. Coleman isn’t listening. “We need RIGOR, developmental appropriateness be damned.”

As to how it’s communicated to teachers, by which I assume you mean K-12 teachers or even K-5, IME the answer is “badly, if at all.” Many teachers, even elementary teachers, don’t get a lot of coursework in Early Childhood, if they get any, and I have yet to see any public school staff development in my years of teaching that even bothers to address it. (It may well be out there, but in all the Powerpoints I’ve sat through personally, it never came up, so I will admit up front this is my own experience – if anyone else has gotten PD that is Early Childhood-specific in public school lately, I’d love to know about it.)

In my post, I asked Sybilla if she is familiar with how young children learn. I am not presuming to speak for her, which is why I asked the question in the first place. Not all my questions are answered on the page you linked to, so why not go straight to the source?

Perhaps reading some of her books and papers would answer your questions. I think there are a number of active links.

“People need to spend more time doing research and reading to help improve their knowledge base so they can make informed decisions and not just accept someone else’s opinion on what the truth is concerning what should be taught and when and who is qualified to do it”

AMEN

Brian makes an excellent point when he says that the CCSS in mathematics do not represent a great departure from what was the previous de facto national standards, those promulgated by NCTM. The old state standards were, for the most part, modeled on the NCTM standards and didn’t deviate much from them. I very much wish, however, that before we rushed into these new standards we had had a serious national debate about how we are approaching K-12 math instruction, a debate focused on this issue: If we are doing what we ought to be doing, why is it that MOST adult graduates of our K-12 programs are

a. effectively innumerate ten years after they graduate (A recent study found that 63% of adult Americans could not calculate a 10% tip even though all they had to do was move the decimal place).

b. are math phobic (Publishers generally frown on including ANY equations in works for the general public.)

c. think of themselves as not mathematically gifted or even capable

d. don’t do mathematics recreationally, don’t follow developments in any area of mathematics, and don’t commonly turn to mathematical tools in their everyday lives

A good start for thinking about this multi-faceted question of why our long-term outcomes are so poor is Paul Lockhart’s wonderful essay “A Mathematician’s Lament.” This should be required reading for anyone starting out to write K-12 mathematics standards or curricula:

cs: “from what were the previous de facto national standards.” I wish one could edit these posts!!!

These are good points, but to pick two examples from Lockhart: CCSS doesn’t mention teaching the useless secant function like the California standards it is replacing did, and neither set of standards ever called for two-column proofs.

If textbook publishers really took to heart the Standards for Mathematical Practice, they would have to re-think the books and materials they have been putting out (and maybe retire two-column proofs). You’re right–I don’t expect them to do that. They are going to take what they have and stamp “Common Core” logos all over the same old material, secant function, two-column proofs, and all.

I think a better curriculum is possible with these standards, but there is nobody with a profit motive who is going to do anything radically different and there doesn’t seem to be a non-profit way to pull off something on this scale. The standards are just a few pages for a whole year of math–there is a lot of room for interpretation.

“In the base-ten numeral 770, in which place is the digit that represents a value that is 10 times the value of the 7 in the tens place?”

This was copied directly from my son’s 4th grade test prep last year. I had to read the question several times to understand what it was that they were looking for and I am adult who actually likes math. The wording is purposely confusing and inappropriate for a lot of 9 year olds.

There was another set of questions that stand out in my mind. I wish I would have made a copy of it, also. They had to do with units of measure, for example asking which had the larger amount of units – a 200 ml glass of water or a 5 acre lake. No matter how I explained it, to my son the answer to larger was the one that held the largest volume. Even when I used visual props, he still insisted that the lake was the answer. He finally was able to get the answers correct, I do not think he ever really understood what they were asking. He just figured out a way to work around it and give me the answer that he knew I wanted.

I am sure that these questions are appropriate for some 9 year olds, but I don’t think there are many of them. They were not appropriate for him. So he did not learn any math, he learned how to give the expected answer. And when that happens he begins to think that he must be stupid because he is smart enough to know that he really does not understand. That is what is wrong with holding every child to the same “standard”.

yes yes yes!!!! kids are on different developmental schedules, and the deformers pushing these one-size-fits-all standards and tests simply don’t understand that

Could someone tell me why a kid – or anyone for that matter – would ever need to know that 200 millileters is greater, in terms of number of units, than 5 acres??? What a stupid question, and I’m glad to hear your son didn’t “get it”!

That question is way, way beyond stupid. Is it inexcusably incompetent test writing or purposefully bad test writing?

The public must demand that these exams, in their entirety, be made public. This these types of ridiculously worded items need to be exposed for what they really represent.

I am darned if I can find the handful of sample nys math ccss questions for 3rd & 4th grade that came with a newspaper report about test scores. They were all like the one you cite above, which strikes me as an exercise in linguistic logic at middle-school or higher level, hiding two simple math questions (what is 10×7, and which is the 10’s place in a 3-digit number).

What do 3rd/4th grade teachers say? Is the question well-designed, & what would a wrong answer tell you about the student’s math ability? Also: as many here say math CC is not much different than previous stds, is this Q typical of pre-CC exams?

I’m really not as worried about the CCSS in mathematics as I am about the CCSS in ELA. The CCSS math standards are quite similar to the best of the state standards that preceded them, and all those state standards were closely modeled on the NCTM standards, which have been around for years. There’s no radical departure here from what we’ve been doing in the past. The new ELA standards are another matter altogether. These, and most of the state standards that preceded them, are an utter disaster.

The PARCC and SBAC assessments will drive instruction, not the standards themselves. When questions like the one about place value (770) above become the focus of 4th grade math we are all in trouble. Forget the standards and read the tests (not just the samples provided as they fail to paint the full picture). The math standards may produce more damage than those in elementary ELA.

This is “inquiry” based math teaching??

Inquiry based math is like asking students to compose music without ever having learned about notes, scales, chords.

In my experience, there is nothing wrong with inquiry based learning, in small doses. I believe that in math, kids need a balance of inquiry-based problem solving, as well as good old fashioned instruction with plenty of practice and feedback. It’s pretty simple. Kids are different, so you have to mix it up to reach every learner. But ALL learners need practice and feedback.

Problem solving in math is not the same as learning by discovery or inquiry. Constructivism does way more harm than good. Students appreciate and learn best from high quality direct instruction.

I don’t know what this video is supposed to show! If my lesson on the multiplication principle was like this one, I’m quite sure that I would not be rated effective!

The testing is a much larger problem for various reasons, though questioning the CCSS is important. The idea that the CCSS are tied to Race to the Top money access and that Governors are certainly not experts in what is best for children is an ethical concern. Diane posted a letter my 14 year-old daughter wrote after she broke down during the Pennsylvania Algebra 1 Keystone exam last spring (Based on the CCSS Dr. Beckmann supports). She is an “A” student overall, and earned a 97% in Algebra 1 last year. There is no defense for what they are doing to our children.

https://dianeravitch.net/2013/07/02/letter-from-a-pennsylvania-student-stop-the-keystones/

My daughter and I are attending Diane’s visit to the Philadelphia Free Library on 9/17. Diane is her hero, and mine.

Danielle, I look forward to meeting you both.

Beckmann profits from her commercialized intellectual property including a textbook, DVD, and activity manual published and sold by Pearson and available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other vendors. She’s another university professor seeking to profit using K-12 students and teachers without financial disclosure.

http://www.pearsonhighered.com/beckmann3einfo/

http://www.pearsonhighered.com/pearsonhigheredus/educator/product/products_detail.page?isbn=9780321654274&forced_logout=forced_logged_out

Could you make the same statement about Dr. Ravitch’s books?

TE, No state “adopts” my books. They are purchased by individuals. What is your point?

My point is that this kind of ad hominem attack on this distinguished teaching professor is not very persuasive because it could be applied widely.

Do you think Dr. Beckmann has taken this position on K-8 education in order to enrich herself? If you take that argument seriously, many who post on this blog, and the blog itself, are vulnerable to the same type of criticism. How would expansion of charter schools impact the earnings of the public school teachers who post here? Are they simply opposing charter school expansion because of their narrow self interest? Does this blog serve as a platform for increased sales of your books? Should we consider your opinions to be tainted because of the commercial potential that the blog creates?

I would much rather discuss the merits of the argument than try to tease out the motivations for making the argument in the first place. I know it is harder, but it is also more persuasive.

TE, I agree. I never question people’s motives, as I don’t know what their motives are. I question actions and consequences, not motives, which are usually unknown

TE, there are no school districts or states paying large amounts of money to Dr. Ravitch for her book (I imagine) It’s different. Nobody is saying a person can’t publish anything. They are saying conflicts of interest arise when large contracts (like the ones Pearson has with states and in line with RttT stuff) are in the picture.

I respect that Mrs. Beckman is a distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics and appreciate that she includes some statements of a few members of CBMS in support of CCSS for mathematics, but if any of you would like to see a more comprehensive report on the type of discovery math being used in the CCSS, I would refer you to Dr. Mercedes Schneider’s Beware of “Everyday Mathematics” located in her blog site deutsch29. In this piece, Dr. Schneider includes a letter signed by over 200 mathematicians and scientists(including 4 Nobel Laureates- one of whom Steven Chu, has since become Secretary Of Energy) all condemning the Everyday Mathematics being used in the CCSS, an actual case study of a child exposed to this math, a video showing the pitfalls of this math, and a link to an excellent Johns Hopkins meta-analysis of approaches to teaching math.

Has this professor ever been in a classroom?

If so, how long ago?

She does not get it.

The standards are the same as 20 years ago with stats added here and there…but they were thrown at the teachers in the most chaotic way.

Teachers were told to teach the standards and received the pacing guides a day before students returned to school.

Some planning., huh?

Then there are the tests. …and the tests and more tests…etc etc etc

The author of the letter in support of ccss math helped author the standards an writes new inproved ‘now with common core’ textbooks for Pearson:

Pearson Education – Mathematics for Elementary Teachers with Activities

http://www.pearsoned.co.uk/bookshop/detail.asp?item=100000000500621

That clears things up!!

Bingo!

The commenter neanderthal100 asks if professor Beckmann has any teaching experience “in a classroom.”

Teaching Economist (who comments of this thread) pointed out the the professor spent a whole year teaching in an elementary school. That’s right. A whole year.

Above, I posted a video from her of a sample “inquiry” lesson….it is not very impressive.

The professor does, in fact, sell texts through Pearson.

Having said that, she may well be very passionate about math instruction, and be good with her students at UGa.

And obviously, she favors the Common Core standards.

But the bigger point here, and one the good professor misses entirely, is the demonstrably false premise that the Common Core standards are necessary to prepare “students for success in the increasingly competitive global economy.”

ASCD – which took a three-year Bill Gates grant and sold out the the Common Core standards – says that because “ K–12 education drives the preparedness of the future workforce” the Common Core standards Make “more sense than ever before.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that ““Common core academic standards among the states are essential” for U.S. competitiveness. The Business Roundtable resurrects the “rising tide of mediocrity” myth of A Nation at Risk, saying (falsely) that ““Since the release of A Nation at Risk in 1983, it has been increasingly clear that…academic expectations for American students have not been high enough.”

And Arne Duncan said the standards were needed because “ Our competitiveness was in danger.”

All of it is patently untrue.

As I continue to point out, the U.S. is already internationally competitive.

The World Economic Forum ranks nations each year on competitiveness. It uses “a highly comprehensive index” of the “many factors” that enable “national economies to achieve sustained economic growth and long-term prosperity.”

The U.S. is usually in the top five (if not 1 or 2). When it drops, the WEF doesn’t cite education, but stupid economic decisions and policies.

For example, when the U.S. dropped from 2nd to 4th in 2010-11, four factors were cited by the WEF for the decline: (1) weak corporate auditing and reporting standards, (2) suspect corporate ethics, (3) big deficits (brought on by Wall Street’s financial implosion) and (4) unsustainable levels of debt.

Last year (2011-12), major factors cited by the WEF are a “business community” and business leaders who are “critical toward public and private institutions,” a lack of trust in politicians and the political process with a lack of transparency in policy-making, and “a lack of macroeconomic stability” caused by decades of fiscal deficits especially deficits and debt accrued over the last decade that “are likely to weigh heavily on the country’s future growth.” The WEF did NOT cite public schools as being problematic to innovation and competitiveness.

And this year (2012-13) the WEF dropped the U.S. to 7th place, citing problems like “increasing inequality and youth unemployment” and, environmentally, “the United States is among the countries that have ratified the fewest environmental treaties.“ The WEF noted that in the U.S.,”the business community continues to be critical toward public and private institutions” and “trust in politicians is not strong.” Political dysfunction has led to “a lack of macroeconomic stability” that “continues to be the country’s greatest area of weakness.”

So, the chief reason given for the Common Core standards is a myth, a fantasy, a lie.

I wonder what the good professor has to say about that.

oops….”ASCD…sold out to the Common Core standards”

“So, the chief reason given for the Common Core standards is a myth, a fantasy, a lie.”

Excellent points, democracy.

Something’s happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a test over there

Telling us, we got to beware

It’s time to stop, parents, what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down

Here’s ASCD on the standards:

I’d like to see standards developed by several dozen actual K-12 math teachers. This person is a university teacher, so maybe they should be concerned with university standards.

That sounds like a good reason to close education schools. What do those university professors know about K-12 education?

sometimes they know quite a lot….and sometimes, as the Curry School at UVa demonstrates in its joint program to prepare “turn-around specialists” with the Darden School (the graduate business school), not so much.

The argument that the core is superior to a whole two state’s standards is based on her status. She does not cite evidence, hence, she fails the number one tenant of the system she promotes.

I would like to invite the author of this letter to respond to Susan Ohanian’s 28 questions about the common core. They can be found here: http://www.susanohanian.org/core.php?id=551.

The questions are specific to Vermont, but I think apply equally well to Ga.

I am especially interested in answers to the following:

Please provide the names of these Georgians “actively involved” in this CCSS development; include minutes and materials. –

Please provide research showing a causal relationship between any national standards and economic competitiveness. –

What was inadequate about Georgia’s previous standards?

Please provide evidence of Georgia schools not teaching our students to read, write, speak, listen, and learn math for the past several decades. –

What is the cost of providing teachers with resources to make the change to CCSS?

• Is this cost the responsibility of taxpayers in local districts?

• Has consideration been given to what schools will have to sacrifice in order to meet the standards?

Were local school boards consulted before CCSS adoption?

• Please provide details of these discussions.

Do you think that the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent several hundred million dollars to create and promote the CCSS, shutting teachers out of the process, puts the democratic process in jeopardy?

We are running into trouble with CCSS-M in Massachusetts as they make it more difficult for 8th graders to access Algebra I content. That int turn makes it harder to complete the standard four courses to take Calculus in high school.

My daughter completed 8th grade last year in Cambridge where they implemented 8th CCSS in Math. Fewer than 10% of students passed the district Algebra I exam as a result. This is much lower than in previous years.

Reading, MA has also had problems with access to Algebra I in 8th grade.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2013/08/14/reading-new-math-curriculum-runs-into-protests/pGcNh0mavGxkHiJuFoSKaO/story.html

Overall, the standards seemed geared at struggling students and are slowing some kids way down.

In Reading for example, “[the] new sequence that leaves more than 80 percent of eighth-graders without a direct path to a high school calculus course. Only 18 percent will be enrolled in algebra 1, compared with 60 percent to 65 percent in previous years, according to Craig Martin, Reading’s assistant superintendent for learning and teaching.”

I live in Georgia and am wondering if the author of this letter would have cooperated with Gov. Deal in providing this procommon core letter to his appointed BOE members if she had heard what I heard several years ago from the now senate majority leader David Schafer when asked if he suppported a State Charter Commission. He said, “well we all want vouchers down here but charter schools are the next best thing. My kids go to private school.” Thank you for providing high quality ammunition to the firing squad.

“well we all want vouchers down here but charter schools are the next best thing. My kids go to private school.”

Yep…Very familiar with this.

The Southern Strategy, school version.

Sarah points out the real evidence that Common Core math standards are not “rigorous” – even the college board has admitted that there is not “reconciling” of CC to AP Calculus.

http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=27296

“Despite these measures, there are still difficulties in reconciling many AP courses with the Common Core. In particular, AP Calculus is in conflict with the Common Core, Packer said, and it lies outside the sequence of the Common Core because of the fear that it may unnecessarily rush students into advanced math classes for which they are not prepared.

The College Board suggests a solution to the problem. of AP Calculus “If you’re worried about AP Calculus and fidelity to the Common Core, we recommend AP Statistics and AP Computer Science,” he told conference attendees.

Moreover, the College Board may offer an AP Algebra course (although no plans are definite), which may supplant AP Calculus, particularly in schools rigidly adhering to the Common Core standards.”

If you think this lack of alignment doesn’t really matter that much…consider the numbers of public school students currently taking AP Calculus compared to other subjects…

(see appendix C here => http://apreport.collegeboard.org/download-press-center )

Why would America choose to restrict opportunities for students who are ready by accepting mediocre Common Core math? It just doesn’t compute.

Amen

I have been saying for a while that our kids are not getting what they need in math. The link above on Everyday Math from Mercedes explains why. They are not being taught the basic fundamentals, instead it is some confusing convoluted process that is supposed to make them think. All it does is muck up their brains to try and learn this way. I am not against learning alternate ways to solve problems (I do it with my son), but after the basics are mastered.

Yesterday I came to realize that this started way before the Common Core. Imagine that our current math is a pile of garbage and that the Common Core is just putting more garbage on top of the pile that has never been cleaned up in the first place. You cannot build on top of garbage, you just end up with a bigger mess when it collapses. And when it collapses our children will be buried underneath.

The fundamental problem with math instruction is that it is taught as and “end” – instead of “a means to an end”. Witness the fact that 99% of correct math answers, at every level, have NO unit label. So the rewards are “I got the right number. Whatever.” Math education has managed to remove the meaning and usefulness of numbers for the vast majority of students. It is learning almost completely devoid of context. Even good math students are simply doing tricks with numbers; most have very little understanding.

Exactly – on my son’s homework last night (5th grade) they were taught “Place Value and Patterns” using place-value tables (aligns to CC.5.NTB.1). No real math learning there – just figure out when to add a zero or take one away to give the correct answer.