This anonymous K-12 teacher wrote an extended explanation of why he or she opposes the Common Core mathematics standards. The essay was a guest post in David Kristofferson’s blog.

The teacher writes that the math standards

*claim to stress “deep understanding” in addition to procedure, which sounds like a good thing at first, until you take a closer look at how this goal is actually approached. To call what they focus on “understanding” is both misleading and wrong, and there’s a clear trend showing persistent loss of procedural proficiency among our students as a result. The end result of the Common Core-aligned math curriculum is STEM-deficiency rather than STEM-proficiency. It is now a generally accepted fact that only honors compression or outside tutoring will achieve the STEM-readiness that used to be accessible to any motivated and capable student.*

They fail to prepare students for college math.

*I have met too many administrators who’ve swallowed the Common Core proponents’ story hook, line, and sinker. When asked about issues related to the worsening trend of poor student comprehension and poor knowledge transfer from one context to another, they insist that it cannot be happening under the new standards and the greater “depth of understanding” that they embody. Meanwhile, they are dismissive of objections coming from parents, teachers, and students on the ground.*

Many parents see the performance of their children dropping not only in math, but also with spelling and grammar[9], and they are frustrated about it. They object that they can no longer help their children with or even understand the math homework that is being assigned, while students lose valuable elective classroom time to all the required standardized testing. The same administrators who dismiss these parents for their questioning of all the canned verbiage about the benefits of the new standards (and there is a whole lot of it, indeed) have also balked when teachers expressed frustration with being forced to do away with their well-established and vetted curricular materials as the wheels of education are being reinvented right under their feet.

When Common Core first took hold, there was enough missing curricular material to explain the early drops in student performance. (The very fact that this material was not developed and provided long before the switchover is quite telling of the mindset that drove its adoption.) Now that these curricula have been published and put into use for some years, the middling results are less easy to dismiss. I will outline the fundamental problems as I see them in this article, and I’ll get into more detail about each problem in a series of follow-ups.

*Despite having so many of these intrinsic issues, countless administrators, teachers, and education researchers have contributed to or been swayed by the story put forward by Common Core proponents, that these new standards have been designed and built from the ground up to present and foster a deeper understanding of the material, starting at the beginning and running all throughout the K-12 curriculum. The standards have been written and organized to have this patina, but it is mostly an empty facade.*

Read on. Do you agree or disagree?

I don’t know much about common core curriculum- but as a software engineer writing scientific and medical, software for industry I can tell you that I use software tools to do math, lower grades multiplication tables are needed. Just memorize them, understanding will come, but first you need to have that as wrote. Then later grades ( middle to fight school ) use tools like wolfram alpha to solve calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra, making full use of graphical representations for understanding.

This is what is needed in stem. Early grades yes, drill and kill. Later grades use computer. Understanding will come from visualization.

Schools are not about satisfying the need of engineers. Drill and kill kills students’ enthusiasm.

In summary, your observation doesn’t have anything to do with how math needs to be taught in schools.

For grades K through 6, teachers would prefer a knowledge-based set of standards and curriculum. The common core approach could begin in 7th grade.

I wouldn’t blame the common core for grammar and spelling – NYC was following balanced literacy before the CCSS came around.

I know not everyone is a huge fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy, but I think it is a great starting point. If we used it as a guide to develop standards and curriculum (using the original, dry text), most teachers would appreciate its style (and love the autonomy).

I think I have related the tale I heard from a retired history teacher from Skokie about Dr. Bloom being told at an in-service he was an idiot by an old curmudgeon who had taught history for 40 years.

David Coleman and Jason Zimba , the creators of the Common Core English/LA and Math standards are bullshit artists and not even very good ones, which makes it all the more surprising that so many people accepted what they were shoveling.

“and not even very good ones.” THERE IT IS.

Of course, the less technical name for “form over substance ” is bullshit.not sure why that appeared there. It was supposed to go after my comment below on form over substance (aka bullshit)

SomeDAM….a few years ago I read an article in the Hechinger Report. It was Zimba giving a “Sorry…not Sorry” account of how the standards were developed. It was interesting that he was tutoring his children at home in Math because the school had Common Core aligned and he wasn’t quite happy with it.

Zimba blames it all on teachers’ failure to ” implement” it correctly.

The fellow is pathetic.

Bloom was a strong supporter of adapting your teaching to the experience of the students – like Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education. I’m sure many teachers of that time period hated hearing things like that.

“For grades K through 6, teachers would prefer a knowledge-based set of standards and curriculum.”

What does that mean? What’s knowledge in math? In math, kids need to do stuff from day one, not just sit quietly, and absorb—unless you want to create math anxiety as early as possible.

Following the CCSS has led to form over substance. This is a problem since substance or content is more important than form in the real world. My grandson is in fourth grade in Texas. My daughter has been sharing some of his homework with me. Despite Texas being a state that did not formally adopt the CCSS, the math operations reflect the CCSS standards. I found the CCSS procedures obtuse and not particularly helpful in arriving at better understanding. Fortunately, the teacher has allowed students to solve problems using the CCSS or traditional methods of computation.

Language arts have been similarly inhibited by substituting prep instead of reading real literature. Frankly, writing has suffered even more. Students are taught “close reading” instead of reading for in depth understandings. I do not know if my grandson’s school is typical, but it has largely ignored writing and spelling.

Following the CCSS has not improved education. Students were receiving more meaningful instruction before the test and punish regimen was imposed on schools. We are shortchanging students if we do not provide them with a rich, comprehensive academic program that includes other subjects including science, social studies and the arts.

Of course, the less technical name for “form over substance ” is bullshit.

Agreed.

Whenever people start talking about “deep understanding”, “deep learning” and the like, you know something else is deep: manure.

Thanks for announcing this, Diane. The author appreciates it!

My pleasure to do so.

Why would a well thought essay need to be anonymous?

Roy, the same reason so many people here post under pseudonyms. I am retired and self-employed part time as a private tutor now, so I can post under my name without fear of retribution.

Because teachers aren’t allowed to talk about how awful the standards are for fear of retribution. When the CC math standards started and my daughter was in ALG I, I started questioning the teacher at conference time….she got up, looked down the hall, shut her door and started whispering and showing me the “bullet list”. She was afraid and she wasn’t happy with the standards. That year, the county offered early retirement to any teacher with 15+ yrs and LOTS of math and ELA teachers retired. Funny how many of those teachers are now working in the private school systems that don’t push CC.

I have always been very outspoken about my opposition to standards in general. I recall writing an essay when I was in college against the idea of behavioral objectives.CC came under my fire early in its introduction.

I did inherit from my mother the ability to tell somebody they are wrong without arousing their wrath. I think my stability of employment comes mainly because I am Jocelyn Turrentine’s boy, a sort of local badge of excellence I did not earn at all with behavior but with happenstance.

Roy, I am the author of that guest post, and I can respond to your question myself. I have taught math, physics, and computer technology in a variety of settings, including professional training, university lecturing, individual tutoring, private school, and currently public school.

At the time of writing, I knew my opinion would most certainly ruffle feathers and be held against me as a public school educator. For that reason, I thought it best to speak anonymously. I have since decided to leave public school teaching entirely, and so perhaps I’ll share more specifics about myself in future posts.

Even I, a college prof, have to think about what I write here.

???

Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting???

Preaching decent (oppose standardized testing)

BUTpractice obedience (

GIVEstandardized tests)???Oppose Common Gore Standards but continue the complicity as if

Snotus Pedagogus worked…

It’s not us, it’s the (fill-in)…

Gasp, actions

STILLspeak louder than words.And people on this blog will condemn me, but I couldn’t sacrifice my 2nd child to ALL the “deforms” of a public school system (that is owned by Pearson) that adopted everything fully……CC, 1:1 Ipads, Ed Tech, SEL, testing madness, AP for all. His move to Private HS is the best money we spend. For the 1st time ever, he likes school, he likes his teachers, it makes sense (ESPECIALLY THE MATH), he reads great literature, and he is treated as a human being. Being incorrect or messing up on a test is seen as a “learning moment” and not viewed as messing up the school’s ranking. My son sees a future with college….2 years ago, I had to physically rip him out of bed to go to school. I really wish for a return to better times for public schools but unfortunately, it won’t happen for my children.

I don’t condemn you. I am a public school teacher and strong believer in the concept of public schools, but I’m despairing over the bad ideas that have taken root in them. I advise my siblings to send their kids to private schools. I asked one young relative who’d switched to a parochial school why he liked it better. He said, “We’re actually learning things.”

My sister is a retired teacher (30+ yrs) and she advises people to leave the public school system. She says she will never set foot in a school again (she had planned to substitute teach). One more year of a mediocre VAM score and they would have decreased her retirement pay or gotten rid of her….she taught special ed and her students couldn’t pass ALG I. My son gets in the car every day and talks about his day….learning, his friends, funny things his teachers do/say. It’s amazing how much respect the kids give to the teachers when they are treated as human beings.

“I advise my siblings to send their kids to private schools. ”

As a result, public schools disappear.

What is happening in public schools is the result of pandering to billionaires that want to destroy them. The only way to make real change is to get all school personnel refusing to play the game. Test and punish is dead end for public schools because the real intention is to privatize them.

I will tell you what our teachers do. We are a district that is married to the data and test scores (we always rank in US News…ugh). Our teachers follow the bullet list” to the T”. It’s test prep all day, every day. The teachers hope that the parents will do/say something. No…our parents blame the teacher for the poor grades, administration does a spin job and then the wealthy parents pay for tutoring. Magic test score turn around!! The anonymous teacher surveys on workplace atmosphere came out 2 weeks ago…..and it was pretty bad!

I’m not a certified teacher, but I tutor 4th grade math in a high-needs school. As expected, their abilities fall in the usual bell curve, but I’m appalled at the lack of procedural mastery for their basic operations. Those who are having trouble don’t know their math facts to automaticity, are still counting on their hands in 5th grade; when they get to long division, it’s over. The math foundation has not been built at this point, creating unnecessary math anxiety when trying to solve more complex concepts like dividing fractions. As these kids move along, they struggle more, creating even more anxiety, and finally shut down altogether. And they are perfectly bright. In my opinion, the curriculum forces them to spend too much time explaining why 2 plus 2 equals 4 and making them calculate it 6 different ways with pictures, rather than making sure they can confidently perform all the steps for long division. Just for starters. And then we collectively wring our hands and wonder why STEM is so underrepresented by people of color.

I home tutored both of my kids in the summertime in basic skills math. My kids hated Mommy Math, but now that they are older, they thank me for teaching them the foundational skills that their elementary school threw to the wind. One can’t do higher math without the foundational/procedural math…it’s no wonder that kids are having trouble passing ALG? My husband was an adjunct in the math dept of a state college and was amazed at the kids who couldn’t do an ALG I word problem…..these were engineering students in an Honors program!!!

My daughter resorted to multiplication flash cards to get her son to know the facts automatically. He understood the process, but memorizing math facts allows a student to become a lot more efficient.

For some reason, California went hook, line and sinker for the Common Core standards. Hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, were spent to install them, along with the necessary hardware and software for the testing. Meanwhile, CA spends less than the national average per pupil, classes are too large, and facilities don’t get the updates they need. CC came with a heavy price tag.

California, like a lot of states, lost out on many of the NCLB allocations made during Bush’s and Obama’s presidencies. I believe the intent was to not get hit a second time.

Also note that that textbook publishers have had a stranglehold on both the Office of the State Superintendent and the State Legislature since the 70s. The companies that write the textbooks are the same companies that write the exams.

Common Core was not a gift from the federal government. It was a very expensive commitment to change everything: textbooks, professional development, testing, software, etc. I recall an estimate by Tom Torlakson that the changeover to Common Core would cost the state of California about $2 billion. Not a wise expenditure.

Two comments:

1. An algebra teacher with whom I worked analyzed algebra test results concluding that low test scores were the result of students not being able to multiply. He began each year requiring students to develop proficiency in multiplication. His test results improved.

2. As a teacher of students with learning disabilities, I found some students did not know what multiplication was. I began instructing these students using piles of crayons to be divided among fictional people. The student then moved the crayons around to illustrate the process of division or multiplication. Next I had students multiply by drawing short lines rather than moving crayons. Finally, I went to drill.

When I was in grade seven, I drew lines intuitively to solve multiplication problems as needed.

I noticed when teaching arithmetic, students lacked a “gut” feel for processes. I attribute this to their lack of experience. My math education began in 4-H at age six. I understood fractions because I used measuring cups and recipes to bake from scratch. I used a guide next to the needle on the treadle sewing machine. The guide indicated the 5/8 seam allowance marked off on an inch drawing. Who does this today?

I made a rice box for my room but middle school is not a good place to begin this strategy. I had to teach sweeping up instead of measuring. I had students make paper yardsticks using rulers. I had students make paper cones and illustrate degrees to separate the concept from stick measures. And has any company made clear plastic cubes to let students see units in multiple dimensions?

Skill and drill is useless with out these “gut” concepts.

I always have a guide marked to distance I need whether on my home machine or the industrial walking foot machine I have. Makes for accurate sewing!

“Skill and drill is useless with out these “gut” concepts.”

Exactly! I add that these “gut” feelings for math concepts are the main ingredients of understanding. Proofs won’t do a good job here. Developing these gut feelings cannot be done by making kids sit quietly and absorb “knowledge”.

“Meanwhile, they are dismissive of objections coming from parents, teachers, and students on the ground.”

And of profs. As we discussed before, the issue is that, while promoting better understanding of the material is an appropriate advice, the way they enforce it is senseless. Understanding something has many levels, depending on age and other factors, and CC consistently chooses inappropriate levels.

With the heavy emphasis on tests, kids’ learn math in a more mechanical way than before (which was already mechanical), and as a result, their confidence level in their own thinking abilities is even lower than it was before.

In general, passive learning results in lower self confidence.

“Understanding something has many levels, depending on age and other factors, and CC consistently chooses inappropriate levels.”

Yes, inappropriateness is a big issue I only touched upon in my critique. CC establishes and assesses understanding in ways that are not age-appropriate and which also hinder further understanding. Understanding without mastery of the basic skills only goes so far, and belaboring the expression of that “understanding” has only worsened the problem.