Mercedes Schneider has dug deep into the IRS 990 forms of the various organizations that wrote the Common Core standards and is piecing together the history of that effort.

Although its advocates portray CCSS as “state-led,” that was not quite true.

The creation of the CC was the work of a handful of influential individuals associated with inside-the-Beltway organizations, plus testing companies.

She concludes:

*The contents of this post reinforce the reality that CCSS is the result of a few attempting to impose a manufactured standardization onto the American classroom. At the heart of CCSS are a handful of governors, millions in philanthropic and corporate dollars, and a few well-positioned education entrepreneurs handed the impressive title of “lead architect.” The democratic process is allowed entrance into this exclusive club, but only for show. The place for democracy in CCSS development is standing room only, and that near the exit.*

*Fortunately, democracy gets edgy when relegated to the cheap seats. Achieve, NGA, Pimentel, Pawlenty, and other CCSS peddlers might deliver their best sales pitches; however, the truth is that CCSS is in trouble in statehouses and boardrooms across the country.*

Future generations of educators will study CCSS as a colossal education blunder.

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The fraud known as CCSS will be outed sooner or later. Thank you Mercedes for helping to make it sooner.

I always appreciate Mercedes’ work.

I think the deal is that many states just took on CCSS so they could get RttT money (I am told that CCSS was so very similar to the standards our state was already working on, that it made sense to adopt CCSS so we could “compete” for the money) despite what leadership might try and justify—–the move was made by all parties involved (or “stakeholders,” as they say—on behalf of citizens) before a case was made. Now that this action is almost in the rear view mirror, they will do what they need to make things right in their states. That is how I perceive things in NC.

I think it would be best for everyone if we can learn from it, use it as a point from which to grow, observe justice (if there is an avenue for that—-I still haven’t seen any outright proof of injustice—-indeed it might be like bankers and the finance industry where it seems criminal acts were committed, but there is no way of recourse and very few actually “get in trouble.”) We need more lawyers involved! (really, we would be better off if some lawyers got in on the scene). Lawyers with no skin in the game who can objectively state whether laws were broken on this. Demonizing lawyers is passe. We need them. Smart ones.

It would be helpful to me if someone could point out the “colossal blunders” in the Math CCSS.

Here is a link:http://www.corestandards.org/Math

I’m not a math teacher, so I can’t give you all of the details. But I do know that my colleagues in math are complaining that the core jumps from topic to topic with no connections to each other. Furthermore, parts of the core assume knowledge that is not found elsewhere in the core, and therefore has to be taught.

As a parent, I can tell you that the rush to implement this has dropped kids into the middle of the core, once again assuming knowledge that the kids haven’t learned. It’s been horrible for my son. The special ed director in my large district has told me that special ed referrals have skyrocketed. No curriculum should suddenly label a bunch of kids as “deficient.”

I think it would be helpful if your math colleagues would specify where the CCSS jump from topic to topic with no connection. Here is a link for your convenience: http://www.corestandards.org/math

As for the standards not specifying everything, well if they did no doubt the opposition would be even greater.

Finally I think it is useful to distinguish between the implementation of the CCSS and the standards themselves. By bundling the two together you force the folks that like the CCSS and the folks that like the http://www.corestandards.org/math to unite in opposition. I wish more folks from Kentucky would speak up about how the implementation is working there, but I understand their reluctance to speak here.

Not sure this counts as a ‘colossal blunder’ but I wonder what the reasoning is in teaching how to read a clock over 3 years. Seems rather disconnected. Does reading time to 1 minute really need to be taught a year later than reading time to 5 minutes? If you can skip count by 5’s, you can count on by 1’s. I don’t think this is criticism is especially targeted to CCSSM though, I bet I would find this kind of thing in the curriculum standards of a most countries.Or maybe there’s an amazingly good reason…

I am not sure that it counts as a colossal blunder either.

CC is all about power, control and the billions to be made by corporations – not about students, choice or quality local public education. The reformers are not qualified to teach their own “standards.”

Common Core’s Invalid Validation Committee

http://educationfreedomohio.org/2013/09/10/common-cores-invalid-validation-committee/

Progress on the Common Core State Standards—Susan Pimentel

http://www.gefoundation.com/videos/progress-on-the-common-core-state-standards-susan-pimentel/

The systemic problem with the common core is applying a production terminology —standards—to academic domain. Add to this production mentality the presence of some testing mechanism and you set in motion a mechanical process that does fit into the highly interpretative world of subject matter domains. The assumption of non-educators, those who come out of business classes, is the belief that the problem school achievement is a standards problem. What they do not understand is that all subject matter disciplines have a “standard” by which knowledge is judged —look at poor Ron Paul who is mystified by the uproar over his recurring problem with plagiarism. The promoters of common core would have been safer to use educational terminology —curriculum frameworks— and give permission to states and school districts to interpret those frameworks as they wish. The last decade of school reform has been characterized by a clash between a production paradigm and a educational paradigm—this will continue until someone from our field is elevated to Secretary of Education.

I like the way you describe this

Alan,

The history of the production paradigm goes back quite a while. Callahan documents it in his early 1960’s classic “Education and the Cult of Efficiency”. Check it out!

Duane:

The “cult” colonized education when Managers of Virtue (Tyack/Hansot) applied Taylorists management strategies to large urban districts. While these methods certainly seeped into business offices and board rooms, teachers were able to shield these methods from the classroom by paying ceremonial attention (Meyer/Rowan) to surface features of institutional schooling (e.g. textbook adoption, sever period days, Carnegie Unit), but then closing the classroom door on the institution to work in the real world of classrooms. I spent the first 10 years of my teaching career (70’s-80’s) performing the ceremonial functions for my superiors and doing my own thing in the classroom. What makes the new accountability movement different is the new paradigm of the cult of efficiency that has it origins with Deming’s TQM movement (which he often stated should not be applied to education). This new cult of efficiency is attempting to pry the classroom door open with an surveillance regime (data mining, valued added evaluation models, contrived learning communities) that is able to distinguish between ceremony and reality. The reality for teachers is the essential disconnect between systems design to inspect and systems designed to teach–but this distinction is all but lost by our new cadre of managers of virtue.

Great explanation, Alan! Leave it to Americans to ignore the best of Deming and leave that at the wayside and apply what is least applicable to humans in educating our children.

It seems to me that the academic domain is filled with standards, especially in mathematics. A course in Algebra must teach students a certain set of skills, or it is not actually an Algebra class and has been misnamed.

No academic domain or subject is in its original form. Following Dewey’s philosophy or pedagogy all academic domains were responses to human problems that were solved using abstract symbol systems. These symbol systems were later categorized into a domain or subject to satisfy institutional requirements of classification and assessment. The problem, as Dewey noted, is that the original rationale and wonder of algebra became lost in textbooks that can exceed 600 pages. What is included in these textbooks is classified as a standard algebra, when in reality there is no thing as standard algebra, but rather a set of intellectual tools that serve different purposes. Recently there have been a number of articles written on mathemtical operations in algebra that have become outdated either because of technology or emphasis. Along with these articles are recommendations that we consider reshaping the math curriculum and drop topics that have little relevance today and adopt topics —like statistics/quantitative analysis—that would better serve our student bodies.

I would be pleased if all my students could solve a system of two linear equations for two unknowns.

TE, your son sounds VERY bright. What he is suggesting (starting with logic and set theory) was exactly what was done in the New Math programs of the 1960s. I’m no expert in math curricula, but that made a lot of sense. However, the new programs were rolled out with no training of teachers, and administrators and parents didn’t understand what was being done and why. All they saw was that kids’ textbooks were suddenly full of material on De Morgan and Boole, one calculation in binary and base 16, and they had no idea what that stuff was about. There was a grassroots rebellion against it. The conventional wisdom went like this: We’re getting off track with all this logic and set theory stuff–with all this attempting to lay conceptual foundations for mathematical study; we need to get back to basics–learning those algorithms for additions, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

My reading is that the New Math failed

a. because the textbooks were rolled out before a new generation of teachers was trained in the new approach. Most of the teachers had no clue what they were doing, and so they couldn’t justify it and

b. as I have stated above, I think that there is reason to believe that the neurological mechanisms for the kinds of thinking needed to understand mathematics at a conceptual level develop, in most kids, later than people have assumed that they do.

My recommendation would be that we prepare kids for study of manipulation of mathematical symbols by spending the elementary school years doing with them a program of activities for developing the fluid intelligence–the neurological machinery–necessary to UNDERSTAND what they are doing when they are doing mathematics and that if we did that, when kids were introduced to the manipulation of formal symbols, they would be able to grok, REALLY to grok, what they were doing and that they would learn more, far more, in a few years than they now do in 12.

Unfortunately, what most people are learning from their math classes today is that doing math is about as much fun as getting a colostomy in the woods with a stick (to use Bill Bryson’s memorable phrase), that they are TERRIBLE AT IT, that it’s not useful for anything that they really want to do, and that it should be avoided, in the future, whenever possible. By the time kids enter middle school, most of them have already made up their minds about this. Why? I think its because, doing math early with kids, we are faced with a devil’s bargain of either a) teaching rote symbol manipulation without any real conceptual understanding, b) trying to teach conceptual understanding before the neurological machinery for doing that well is in place.

Now, of course kids can do all kinds of sophisticated mental activity at early ages. There are some cognitive skills that people are born hardwired for. But there are some that start developing later. Among these are skills for very abstract reasoning.

And we can hasten the development of those neurological mechanisms for very abstract reasoning by doing fluid intelligence activities, not elementary math as it is currently conceived, in elementary school.

As it is today, our current elementary math approaches are operant conditioning programs for teaching the hatred of mathematics. MOST KIDS learn that lesson very well.

Very, very well said, Alan!!! Precisely!!! Curriculum frameworks would have been fine. Specific, inflexible, mandated standards for all are a terrible idea for many, many reasons. Here are a few of the most important: because kids differ, because publisher start treating the standards as the curriculum and so distort the curriculum dramatically, because inflexible standards stifle curricular and pedagogical innovation, because national standards create economies of scale and so help a few publishers maintain monopoly positions.

I am still having a hard time finding inflexible standards in the math CCSS.

The math standards are a curriculum outline. They list what topics are to be covered and measured at each grade level. I am an ELA guy and no expert in learning progressions in mathematics (though I am quite familiar with the CCSS for math, with the state math standards that preceded these, and with the NCTM standards that the state standards were all based on. But that the standards are inflexible is easily demonstrated. One cannot move a standard to a different grade level.

Suppose that a district decides, for whatever reason, to teach ONLY the metric system in the primary grades and to save introducing U.S. customary until, say, grade 5. That system would then be in violation of the following standard for grade 2.

Estimate lengths using units of inches, feet, centimeters, and meters

Suppose that a district decided to take a much more radical approach, which I support:

Delay ALL instruction in mathematics proper until grade 7. In place of what is being done in math in the early grades, institute an enormous amount of practice of activities to develop fluid intelligence, including pattern recognition activities and activities involving manipulation of graphics to carry out various kinds of abstract thinking (sorting, classifying, breaking into parts [analyzing], combining, sequencing, organizing according to a wide variety of arrangement such as least to most and biggest to smallest, rotation and other sorts of graphical transformation, reasoning inductively, reasoning deductively, reasoning abductively, etc). Also start teaching basic programming from Day 1. Create a very rigorous program of PLAY to develop the neurological machinery for high fluid intelligence. (You can read about studies of the remarkable consequences of doing this in Richard Nisbett’s superb book Intelligence and How to Get It.

Once students have demonstrated that they have the fluid intelligence skills to UNDERSTAND what his happening when one manipulates mathematical symbols, start teaching mathematics proper. Make the study of mathematics the sanctum into which one enters once one is prepared, for “Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés”–“In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.”

I suspect that if we did that, kid would learn FAR MORE math in 7th-12th grade than they are currently learning in grades PreK-12, and they would enjoy it a lot more because they would understand it.

Now, if a district wanted to do that, it could not because the standards are a curriculum progression and any deviation from that progression, especially so radical a deviation, is disallowed. One has to do what the Common Core Curriculum Commissariat and Ministry of Truth requires be done at each grade level.

Now, you will notice that what I am suggesting for primary and elementary school curricula (those fluid intelligence activities) really ARE math, but they are not math as many people understand it.

Glad you added this last part. It saved me a more lengthy comment.

We have had remarkable uniformity in our math standards for many decades, and we still have a problem. Most adults, products of a system using those fairly uniform standards, are effectively innumerate and HATE mathematics, are extremely math phobic.

Clearly, math is one area where what we have been doing hasn’t been working all that well, and I think that the reason is that we have kids manipulating abstract symbols before they have the right sort of reasoning machinery in their heads–machinery that doesn’t start developing in most people until around the age of 14 and is not fully in place until around the age of 25. There are exceptions, of course–little Eulers and Ramanujans.

Suppose that you spent six years, at the beginning of your school career, in a class in which you did nothing but copy arbitrary symbols from one column into another. I think that that’s what’s happening in our elementary school math classes, and it’s no wonder that by middle school, most have already decided that a) math is hard, b) they are not mathematically inclined, c) they hate it.

The CCSS are a mere rationalization, with some tweaks, of existing state standards that were already remarkably uniform because they were all based on the NCTM standards. The “major innovation” of the CCSS in math is a bit more insistence on demonstration of conceptual understanding at earlier grade levels. But there is nothing in the CCSS in math that wasn’t in some preceding state standard. The CCSS simply made already fairly uniform standards into standards that were absolutely uniform.

But we are tweaking around the edges a system that isn’t working for most people, and the proof of that is that most adults in the U.S.–products of that system, have forgotten the math they learned in school two years after they stop taking mandated math classes, AND most have an extreme loathing of anything mathematical. It’s a truism in publishing that it’s DEATH to the sales of a trade book to include ANY equations in it, even the simplest sorts of equations. There’s a reason for that.

So, the CCSS in math are saying–what we’ve been doing isn’t working, so lets do more of the same, with a few tweaks.

To me, that sounds pretty stupid.

So from your perspective, the CCSS in math are not stupid because they are national standards, are not stupid because they were arrived at in an undemocratic fashion, are, in fact, not stupid because of ANY of the reasons typically given by posters on this blog to oppose CCSS. They are stupid because state and local standards have always been pretty stupid.

Will eliminating the CCSS in math create smart local and/or state standards?

There are certainly many ways a school district might go, but to criticize a set of standards because it does not allow any possible thing to be taught at any possible time seems to be a bit over the top.

Do you think that the main obstacle to your more radical approach to teaching mathematics is 1) common core standards that are just being implemented or 2) local and state opposition by teachers, families, and administrators to students not being taught “math” until junior high?

The CCSS in ELA are another matter altogether. They were prepared by amateurs and are an utter disaster.

I don’t think that it is over the top to suggest that districts should have the flexibility to tweak the learning progression a) for kids generally and b) for particular kids. In fact, I don’t think that it’s over the top to say that districts should be allowed to adopt quite different learning progressions, such as one that tightly integrates programming and math instruction or science and math instruction from Day 1.

I think that the major obstacle to my proposal is not the standards (though those would present an obstacle) but the fact that people wouldn’t understand the argument that I am making for my approach. People are loathe to change, even when they are doing something that isn’t working. Look at what happened with the New Math. It was all about grounding math instruction in set theory, which is quite reasonable. But a) we didn’t have enough New Math teachers who understood what was being done and b) parents and administrators and politicians didn’t understand AT ALL what was being done and didn’t bother to educate themselves.

That’s not to say that having national standards does not create an obstacle to curricular and pedagogical innovation. It does. If one had flexible frameworks instead of standards, then competing models could be developed in particular districts. With the national standards in place, that can’t happen. Standards are “one ring to rule them all.”

Well, there is an alternative. We can continue doing what utterly fails ALMOST ALL THE TIME. Most U.S. adults have happily forgotten almost all the math they ever learned. The moment they get the chance, they put it all behind them.

Call me crazy, but I think that if something’s failing MOST of the time, for most people, we’re probably doing it wrong.

Also, TE, you have contradicted yourself. First, you agreed that the fluid intelligence activities that I was talking about WERE math, now you are saying that my solution for math is not to teach math. Which do you believe, TE? I’m sticking with the former.

Here’s the most interesting thing I’ve ever read on the subject of math curricula:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCwQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.maa.org%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fpdf%2Fdevlin%2FLockhartsLament.pdf&ei=AdSnUtGOF6ersQTb5YCIBA&usg=AFQjCNFGDSuprzF62frJ9aW3y61xxH-w3A&bvm=bv.57799294,d.cWc

Paul Lockhart’s A Mathematician’s Lament

I posted that link long ago. As a parent, my goal for my middle child was to get him out of public math education as weekly as possible. He took his last public school math class at 14.

And, TE, I certainly did not argue for “any possible thing being taught at any grade level.” You recognize that that is hyperbole and an attack not on what I said but on a straw man, correct? It’s OK, of course, as long as you do recognize that. You’re allowed your rhetoric, too, as long as we all recognize that what you said, there, is not meant literally.

I thought about that phrase, but I went ahead and used it because your preferred reform would seem to most to be to not teach “math” in math classes.

I have studied (amongst other things) formal logic, critical thinking, some psychology, and can program in a few languages, so I think I broadly understand your vision and how it might work. I’m wondering if you can link me any writing in which you elaborate on this idea, because to be honest I cannot see it working, though I’m certainly interested in giving it a fair shake.

Start with logic. Let me quote my middle son about his thoughts about math education written in the summer after he graduated from high school: “If it were up to me, I’d start by teaching elementary school kids elementary set theory and boolean logic. It isn’t difficult, but it teaches kids how to think logically about the world (which I consider one of the most important aspects of education) and gives them a foundation for learning math.”

I think the CCSS is the least of the problems facing Robert’s vision of math education.

The superb videos by Vi Hart can give you some idea of the sorts of wonderful fluid intelligence building activities that can be done.

Ah,I see, TE. That was a joke.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lindsay, I suspect that there are few who have explored what I am proposing. I might be wrong about that because while I have done some work over the years developing math curricula, it’s not my area of expertise, so I don’t routinely follow the literature on the subject.

My ideas about learning progressions in math started with two observations. The first was the obvious fact that with rare exceptions, most adult products of our schools are not comfortable doing any mathematics beyond basic arithmetic and are extremely math phobic. That’s not a very good return on our astonishing investment in the current approach to teaching math.

The second was something that occurred in my home a number of years ago. I was married, at the time, to a very bright woman who was, alas, extremely math phobic. She knew no mathematics beyond basic arithmetic. She had forgotten everything, just about, that she had learned of math in school. She HATED math. She reported having found math classes in K-12 fairly easy for the first few years but excruciatingly dull. She had two masters degrees but tried to avoid programs that required any mathematics. In other words, she was like MOST adult products of the approach to math instruction that we take in our schools.

So, one evening, her son, my stepson, was doing homework. He was learning how to use the foil method to factor polynomials, but he was having some difficulties. I was working under a very tight deadline and told them that I would help him the next day. My then wife, hearing this, and hearing his exasperation, grabbed his textbook, read through the chapter quickly, and explained the procedure to him. Then, she turned to me and said, “I could no more have done that when I was a kid than I could have flown by flapping my arms.”

I got to thinking about that and about studies I had read of how researchers had John’s Hopkins had identified, using longitudinal fMRI studies, parts of the prefrontal cortex that didn’t start developing until kids were around the age of 14 and weren’t completely developed until they were about 25.

Now, I knew that there were really advanced cognitive processes that kids were BORN wired for, but it occurred to me that it might well be the case that the reason why kids learn to hate math early on and why they have already decided that they are “not good at math” by the time they enter middle school was that most of them didn’t have, early on, the cognitive structures for very abstract reasoning and that they were simply moving around symbols according to rules that they didn’t really understand.

This is not far-fetched, at all. My area of expertise is ELA curricula. We know that kids’ brains are on a developmental schedule for learning language–that they are born with neural machinery specifically for that purpose and that there is a window of time in which that machinery is operative. Let me give an example. Russian has a liquid L sound not found in English. In Russian, it’s a distinctive feature, as in the difference in the initial sounds of pat and bat. Now, if a kid hears this sound during a critical period in her childhood but then doesn’t go on to learn Russian, she can be taught to hear it later on, as an adult. If not, no amount of teaching can “teach” her to hear the difference between a liquid l and a regular l. The neural machinery for that learning disappears if it is not used.

So, I got to thinking that perhaps my ex was exactly right when she said that she could not have done what she did when she was a kid. Perhaps she didn’t have the cognitive machinery, at that age, that she did at the age of 40. This would explain a lot. It would explain why most kids HATE math by middle school. For them, it’s been moving symbols around without any real conceptual understanding, and perhaps the attempts to convey conceptual understanding before the brain machinery was in place were like attempting to turn a small Phillips screw head with a large butter knife. They simply don’t, at those early ages, have the right tools yet.

Now, we know that the brain is extremely plastic and that the neural machinery for fluid intelligence can be built with the right sort of practice. Again, see the Richard Nisbett book Intelligence and How to Get It for reporting on some profound studies of that. It begins to make sense, as a hypothesis, that math instruction has to follow a particular developmental schedule and that the neurological tools for doing math at high levels can be built by the right sort of early instruction–lots of practice of fluid intelligence activities of the kinds that I described above.

BTW, we now know that the innate language acquisition machinery starts to break down at around age 14–that the optimal time for learning languages is between the ages of five and 14. So, here in the U.S., we generally wait until around age 14, when the machinery in the head for intuiting linguistic structures from the ambient environment is starting to break down TO START TEACHING FOREIGN LANGUAGES to our kids. So, in foreign language, we start too late, and in math, if I am right, we start the work with abstract formal symbolism too early.

It would be terrible though if there was a set of national standards that required foreign languages be taught before the age of 14.

TE, I think that it’s terrible to have a set of national standards, period. If we had national standards mandating the teaching of foreign languages before the age of 14, those standards would be written by amateurs hired by the paid toadies of plutocrats, and they would make impossible anything like the natural processes by which kids learn languages–immersion processes–but would require explicit instruction that runs counter to everything that we know about language acquisition.

In the absence of those invariant, mandated standards, however, some districts can become convinced regarding the efficacy of an early immersion approach to teaching second and third languages, and then others can see the success of those, and over time, you get real innovation, real change.

Those “standards” would have second graders memorizing lists of suffixes in Spanish and German and third graders memorizing rules governing the case of pronouns. See the CCSS in ELA for abundant examples of such idiocies.

Reblogged this on Roy F. McCampbell's Blog.

LLC1923’s provided links above are vital–note second one re Susan Pimentel is sponsored by GE!

Thanks, again, to Dr. Mercedes Schneider for her superb work documenting the real origins of the CCSS. When that work is done, it will be clear to all that the CCSS were part of a strategic plan in the service of a small number of monopolists and would-be monopolists in the educational materials market. As Arne Duncan’s chief of staff made very clear in a Harvard Business Review blog, the purpose of the standard was to create economies of scale and some controlled portals for curricula for a few big players in the ed materials markets that would effectively shut out small competitors. Doing this was important because in the age of the Internet, pixels being cheap, it was possible that there might suddenly, again, be a highly fragmented market in educational materials, with lots of innovative materials from smaller online publishers stealing the business from the big guys who have, over the past few decades, gobbled up all their competition.

The CCSS were about the Microsofting and Walmartization of U.S. education markets. Having these uniform national standards benefits the three big ed book publishers (and their testing arms), and it was a prerequisite for the establishment of the inBloom national database of student responses, which was also to be a monopolistic gateway for computer-adaptive curricula drawing upon those responses and correlated to, you guessed it, that single set of national standards.

No one in his or her right mind would think that having inflexible, invariant, ossified bullet lists of what people must teach is better than having competing frameworks, standards, curricula, pedagogical approaches IF THE GOAL IS INNOVATION AND CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT. However, if the goal is monopoly control of education markets, those national standards are a prerequisite.

A lot of people are being played.

Wait, you didn’t actually name names! WHO exactly wrote the CCSS standards