Search results for: "common core"

Legislator Joe McNamara called for statewide adoption of the Common Core.

http://www.golocalprov.com/live/rep-joe-mcnamara-absenteeism-standards-live

Hello, Rip Van Winkle!

Rhode Island won Race to the Top funding eight years years ago and agreed to adopt the Common Core then.

Did they or didn’t they?

Has the CC been forgotten so soon? Lost? Strayed?

Bill Gates never gives up, and he sure isn’t abandoning his Common Core baby.

But he is not investing much. Only $10 million to train teachers to use Common Core curricula.

For this multiBillionaire, that’s not an investment, it’s more like throwing a few coins out there. Maybe it’s just a signal to his grantees that he is not yet ready yo throw in the towel.

Edweek reports:


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest in professional development providers who will train teachers on “high quality” curricula, the philanthropy announced this afternoon.

The announcement fleshes out the curricular prong of the education improvement strategy the influential foundation laid out in late 2017, a major pivot away from its prior focus on teacher performance.

The investment, at around $10 million, is a tiny portion of the approximately $1.7 billion the philanthropy expects to put into K-12 education by 2022. Nevertheless, it’s likely to attract attention for inching closer to the perennially touchy issue of what students learn every day at school.

Gates officials emphasized that the new grants won’t support the development of curricula from scratch. Instead, grantees will work to improve how teachers are taught to use and modify existing series that are well aligned to state learning standards…

The grants build on the foundation’s earlier support for shared standards, notably the Common Core State Standards. All grantees, for instance, would have to orient their teacher training around a curriculum with a high rating from EdReports.org, a nonprofit that issues Consumer Reports-style reviews, or on similar tools developed by nonprofit groups like Student Achievement Partners and Achieve.

Those tools were directly crafted in the wake of the common standards movement with heavy support from the Gates Foundation.

EdReports has received more than $15 million from the foundation since 2015, while Student Achievement Partners has received about $10 million since 2012. Achieve has received various Gates grants since 1999, most recently $1 million in September to support its reviews of science lessons…

Gates’ investment comes in the middle of two diverging national trends in curriculum that have been unleashed, respectively, by the common-standards movement, and by an explosion of online, downloadable, and often teacher-made lessons.

Gates is still hoping to standardize Instruction and curriculum.

“Who Else Has Gates Funded on Curriculum?

Apart from its newly announced grant competition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has long supported some curriculum providers and quality-control groups. Here’s a look at what it funded in that category in 2018.

RAND Corp.
$349,000

To support curriculum
Open Up Resources
$667,000

To support capacity-building
Pivot Learning Partners
$1.23 million

To support instructional materials
Illustrative Mathematics
$2.85 million

To support student learning and teacher development
EdReports.org, Inc.
$7 million

To provide general support
PowerMyLearning, Inc.
$500,000

To explore connections between tier one and supplemental instructional resources
Achieve, Inc.
$999,548

To increase availability of high-quality science materials
State Educational Technology Directors Association
$299,752

To support state education leaders in their selection of evidence-based professional development and quality instructional materials

Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grants database

Kristen Blair writes that classics are disappearing from the English classroom, and the single biggest reason is the Common Core, which emphasizes “informational text.”

Her source: a report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. TBF bears big responsility for the widespread adoption of those deeply flawed standards. It was paid millions by the Gates Foundation to evaluate them, and found them to be terrific. Then it was paid millions to promote them. Mike Petrilli testified on behalf of the CC before state legislatures.

Blame the Thomas B. Fordham Institute if you are upset about the loss of classic literature.

Remember all the bold promises about Common Core? Remember the claims that it would increase achievement for all students and close the achievement gap? That’s what David Coleman (architect of the Common Core and now president of the College Board, maker of the SAT) claimed, along with a plethora of Gates-funded advocates for Common Core.

Never happened. National NAEP scores flatlined, and scores for the poorest kids dropped.

Here is the latest from New York, which embraced the Common Core wholeheartedly.

Since the introduction of the Common Core, the proportion of students in New York who scored zero on the state writing tests has doubled. In addition, the achievement gap has grown.


An alarming number of NYC students have scored three or more “zeroes” for their writing answers on the statewide English exams, a new study reveals.

On the English Language Arts exams between 2013 and 2016, in addition to multiple-choice questions, students had to read nine or 10 short stories or texts, then write responses aimed at showing their ability to think critically and cite evidence to support their answers.

A score of zero (out of 2 to 4 possible points per question) means a student wrote something “totally inaccurate,” “unintelligible,” or “indecipherable.”

“Kids were stupified by these questions,” Fred Smith, a former test analyst for the city Department of Education, told The Post.

Smith and Robin Jacobowitz, the director of educational projects at the Benjamin Center, a research unit of SUNY New Paltz, were forced to use the Freedom of Information Law to obtain the data for their report titled, “Tests are Turning our Children into Zeroes: A Focus on Failing.”

Of about 78,000 NYC third-graders, they found the number who scored zeroes on three or more written answers doubled from 10,696 (14 percent) in 2012 to 21,464 (28 percent) in 2013, when the state tests were redesigned to fit the tougher Common Core standards.

But in the next three years, city third-graders — who were taught nothing but Common Core curriculum since kindergarten — still racked up zeroes at the same high rate, the study found.

The percentage with three or more zeroes on the ELA exam was still 28 percent in 2014, 29 percent in 2015, and 27 percent in 2016, the last year data was available.
That year, the state eliminated time limits, but the effect on zeroes was slight.

“We can’t say this is just kids getting used to the Common Core curriculum. This is all they’ve ever known,” Jacobowitz said. “It did not get better over time.”

What’s worse, the racial achievement gap widened. In 2013, the number of black kids scoring three or more zeroes was 10 percent higher than white kids. In 2016, the gap grew to 18 percent. The white/Hispanic gap grew from 11 percent to 20….

State officials denied the exams — which cost taxpayers $32 million in a five-year contract with testing vendor Pearson — were poorly designed.

“In general, zeroes would not imply a flaw in the test; rather, it would demonstrate students struggled to master the content being assessed,” a spokesperson said.

Another vendor, Questar, produced the exams for 2017 and 2018, given last spring, under a new, five-year $44.7 million contract.

The state has so far withheld data showing how many kids got zeroes on those test

Time for New York State to release the data for 2017 and 2018.

Be sure to read the study by Fred Smith and Robin Jacobowitz.

A few days ago, a prominent education researcher tweeted that only rightwing nuts oppose the Common Core. Brookings scholar Tom Loveless tweeted back that this was not true, that there are liberals, progressives, and classroom teachers who do not like Common Core.

The Twitter exchange prompted me to offer a list of books about Common Core that I consider essential reading for those who want to learn more about the criticism of Common Core.Those who take the time to read these books will understand the opposition to Common Core and stop stereotyping them (as Arne Duncan did) as people who wear tin-foil hats, which seems to be the ultimate insult these days.

Mercedes Schneider, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools? Schneider is a teacher and researcher. Her book is a thoroughly researched and comprehensive history of the development of Common Core.

Nicholas Tampio, Common Core: National Education Standards and the Threat to Democracy. Tampio, a political scientist, argues persuasively that the creation of national standards by a small group of unaccountable people is fundamentally undemocratic and that national standards themselves are guaranteed to stamp out creativity, authentic teaching, and diversity of thought.

Terry Marselle, Perfectly Incorrect: Why the Common Core is Psychologically and Cognitively Unsound. Written by a teacher, this book compares the Common Core standards to recognized research about teaching and learning and finds the standards to be “unsound.”

Kris Nielsen, Children of the Core. This book, written by a teacher, explains how the standardization and mandates of the standards are demoralizing teachers and harming students.

There are many other books that explain why teachers and parents, regardless of their political views, oppose the Common Core.

If you have read others and want to recommend them, leave a comment.

If you want to inform yourself, please read these books.

Mercedes Schneider reviews an exhaustive report by Richard Phelps about the origins, policies, and practices of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

I approach this topic with caution because I was a founding board member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute. I was a close friend of Checker Finn, until I broke ranks and turned against the conservative activism in which TBF is a prominent actor. I don’t say bad things about Checker or Mike Petrilli. But I don’t agree with them, I think they are doing immeasurable damage to public education, and I regret that they lack the ability to be self-critical or reflective. When I was on the board, I strongly opposed the decision to accept funding from the Gates Foundation. I said it would compromise TBF’s independence. I was right. I opposed the board’s decision to become a charter authorizer in Ohio, where TBF is technically located. I thought that a think tank should not be a charter authorizer. That was well before I took issue with the whole conservative package of standards, testing, accountability, and choice.

Read the entire Phelps’ report.

Phelps raises a serious issue of “donor intent” and whether it was honored. The TBF Funds were intended by their owner to be used strictly for charitable purposes, Phelps writes, never to benefit any individual nor to influence legislation. When I was a member of the board, I was unaware of these restrictions. Mrs. Thelma Fordham Pruett’s lawyer was Checker Finn’s father. He was chairman of the board of the TBF foundation. He decided that the funds—about $35 Million—were not restricted, and he turned them over to his son, who became CEO of the new foundation and used the funds to promote a highly political agenda of education reform. The Fordham Institute has led the way in advancing privatization by charters and vouchers in Ohio. Nationally, it was and is a leading voice in promoting the Common Core standards. Gates paid millions of dollars to TBF both to evaluate the Common Core and to advocate for it.

This is a very troubling report.

Robert Shepherd, teacher, author, curriculum and assessment designer, writes a warning to consumers:

How to Prevent Another PARCC Mugging: A Public Service Announcement

The Common Core Curriculum Commissariat College and Career Ready Assessment Program (CCCCCCRAP) needs to be scrapped. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1.The CCSS ELA exams are invalid.

First, much of attainment in ELA consists in world knowledge (knowledge of what—the stuff of declarative memories of subject matter). The “standards” being tested cover almost no world knowledge and so the tests based on those standards miss much of what constitutes attainment in this subject. Imagine a test of biology that left out almost all world knowledge about biology and covered only biology “skills” like—I don’t know—slide-staining ability—and you’ll get what I mean here. This has been a problem with all of these summative standardized tests in ELA since their inception.

Second, much of attainment in ELA consists in procedural knowledge (knowledge of what—the stuff of procedural memories of subject matter). The “standards” being tested define skills so vaguely and so generally that they cannot be validly operationalized for testing purposes as written.

Third, nothing that students do on these exams EVEN REMOTELY resembles real reading and writing as it is actually done in the real world. The test consists largely of what I call New Criticism Lite, or New Criticism for Dummies—inane exercises on identification of examples of literary elements that for the most part skip over entirely what is being communicated in the piece of writing. In other words, these are tests of literature that for the most part skip over the literature, tests of the reading of informative texts that for the most part skip over the content of those texts. Since what is done on these tests does not resemble, even remotely, what actual readers and writers do in the real world when they actually read and write, the tests, ipso facto, cannot be valid tests of real reading and writing.

Fourth, standard standardized test development practice requires that the testing instrument be validated. Such validation requires that the test maker show that the test correlates strongly with other accepted measures of what is being tested, both generally and specifically (that is, with regard to specific materials and/or skills being tested). No such validation was done for these tests. NONE. And as they are written, based on the standards they are based upon, none COULD BE done. Where is the independent measure of proficiency in CCSS.Literacy.ELA.11-12.4b against which the items in PARCC that are supposed to measure that standard on this test have been validated? Answer: There is no such measure. None. And PARCC has not been validated against it, obviously LOL. So, the tests fail to meet a minimal standard for a high-stakes standardized assessment—that they have been independently validated.

The test formats are inappropriate.

First, the tests consist largely of objective-format items (multiple-choice and EBSR). These item types are most appropriate for testing very low-level skills (e.g., recall of factual detail). However, on these tests, such item formats are pressed into a kind of service for which they are, generally, not appropriate. They are used to test “higher-order thinking.” The test questions therefore tend to be tricky and convoluted. The test makers, these days, all insist on answer choices all being plausible. Well, what does plausible mean? Well, at a minimum, plausible means “reasonable.” So, the questions are supposed to deal with higher-order thinking, and the wrong answers are all supposed to be plausible, so the test questions end up being extraordinarily complex and confusing and tricky, all because the “experts” who designed these tests didn’t understand the most basic stuff about creating assessments–that objective question formats are generally not great for testing higher-order thinking, for example. For many of the sample released questions, there is, arguably, no answer among the answer choices that is correct or more than one answer that is correct, or the question simply is not, arguably, actually answerable as written.

Second, at the early grades, the tests end up being as much a test of keyboarding skills as of attainment in ELA. The online testing format is entirely inappropriate for most third graders.

The tests are diagnostically and instructionally useless.

Many kinds of assessment—diagnostic assessment, formative assessment, performative assessment, some classroom summative assessment—have instructional value. They can be used to inform instruction and/or are themselves instructive. The results of these tests are not broken down in any way that is of diagnostic or instructional use. Teachers and students cannot even see the tests to find out what students got wrong on them and why. So the tests are of no diagnostic or instructional value. None. None whatsoever.

The tests have enormous incurred costs and opportunity costs.

First, they steal away valuable instructional time. Administrators at many schools now report that they spend as much as a THIRD of the school year preparing students to take these tests. That time includes the actual time spent taking the tests, the time spent taking pretests and benchmark tests and other practice tests, the time spent on test prep materials, the time spent doing exercises and activities in textbooks and online materials that have been modeled on the test questions in order to prepare kids to answer questions of those kinds, and the time spent on reporting, data analysis, data chats, proctoring, and other test housekeeping.

Second, they have enormous cost in dollars. In 2010-11, the US spent 1.7 billion on state standardized testing alone. Under CCSS, this increases. The PARCC contract by itself is worth over a billion dollars to Pearson in the first three years, and you have to add the cost of SBAC and the other state tests (another billion and a half?), to that. No one, to my knowledge, has accurately estimated the cost of the computer upgrades that will be necessary for online testing of every child, but those costs probably run to 50 or 60 billion. This is money that could be spent on stuff that matters—on making sure that poor kids have eye exams and warm clothes and food in their bellies, on making sure that libraries are open and that schools have nurses on duty to keep kids from dying. How many dead kids is all this testing worth, given that it is, again, of no instructional value? IF THE ANSWER TO THAT IS NOT OBVIOUS TO YOU, YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE NEAR A SCHOOL OR AN EDUCATIONAL POLICY-MAKING DESK.

The tests distort curricula and pedagogy.

The tests drive how and what people teach, and they drive much of what is created by curriculum developers. This is a vast subject, so I won’t go into it in this brief note. Suffice it to say that the distortions are grave. In U.S. curriculum development today, the tail is wagging the dog.

The tests are abusive and demotivating.

Our prime directive as educators is to nurture intrinsic motivation—to create independent, life-long learners. The tests create climates of anxiety and fear. Both science and common sense teach that extrinsic punishment and reward systems like this testing system are highly DEMOTIVATING for cognitive tasks. The summative standardized testing system is a really, really backward extrinsic punishment and reward approach to motivation. It reminds me of the line from the alphabet in the Puritan New England Primer, the first textbook published on these shores:

F
The idle Fool
Is whip’t in school.

The tests have shown no positive results.

We have have had almost two decades,now, of standards-and-testing-based accountability under NCLB and its successor. We have seen only minuscule increases in outcomes, and those are well within the margin of error of the calculations. Simply from the Hawthorne Effect, we should have seen SOME improvement!!! And that suggests that the testing has actually DECREASED OUTCOMES, which is consistent with what we know about the demotivational effects of extrinsic punishment and reward systems. It’s the height of stupidity to look at a clearly failed approach and to say, “Gee, we should to a lot more of that.”

The tests will worsen the achievement and gender gaps.

Both the achievement and gender gaps in educational performance are largely due to motivational issues, and these tests and the curricula and pedagogical strategies tied to them are extremely demotivating. They create new expectations and new hurdles that will widen existing gaps, not close them. Ten percent fewer boys than girls, BTW, received a proficient score on the NY CCSS exams–this in a time when 60 percent of kids in college and 3/5ths of people in MA programs are female. The CCSS exams drive more regimentation and standardization of curricula, which will further turn off kids already turned off by school, causing more to turn out and drop out.

This message not brought to you by

PARCC: Spell that backward
notSmarter, imBalanced
AIRy nonsense
CTB McGraw-SkillDrill
MAP to nowhere
Scholastic Common Core Achievement Test (SCCAT)
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (“All your base are belong to us”)

Fred Smith and Robin Jacobowitz published a paper analyzing the tests that students in New York are required to take. Their conclusion is devastating.

They examine the quality of the tests, not just the scores of the students. And they conclude that the tests are inaccurate, unintelligible, and indechipherable.

Taxpayers are spending millions of dollars for flawed instruments that harm students and corrupt education.

Questions are not only flawed but developmentally inappropriate for the children to whom they are administered.

Expanding the testing time did not fix the inherent problems.

Smith and Jacobowitz conclude:

Our boldest conclusions tie together important aspects of the testing story: children upset and dumbstruck
by the exams, especially the youngest ones; unhappy parents whose views were disparaged; SED’s suppression of data needed by the public, especially parents to stay informed and make intelligent decisions about their children’s education; the surge in zero scores and omissions that this study uncovered; ill-conceived tests and their perpetuation; the strong case parents have for opting out; the overriding need for transparency, timely data and unfettered review by analysts. These rest most solidly on findings for grades 3 and 4, and for ELLs, students with disabilities, and minority students.

In the final analysis, we are dealing with children here at a formative time in their lives, when education matters most. For every discussion and news story about the increase or decrease in test scores, we must remember that behind each statistic is a child—a young child— who lives each day with the decisions that we make about testing. The 3rd graders who took the first CCLS-linked test in 2013 are taking the 8th grade test this spring. Everything that has been wrong with the core-aligned tests has framed the education of these young people.

It’s time to create a legitimate assessment process, unified with standards and curricula that work in harmony to foster the development of every child’s intellect, abilities, and dreams. Federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), dictates that we test our young students in math and ELA each year.

We must determine how to do that in a way that serves children and the educational goals we value.

Message to parents:

The testing corporations have never been held accountable.

The New York State Education Department has never been held accountable.

Nothing has been fixed.

Opt out.

Do not allow your children to take these tests.

They harm your child and corrupt what we value most in education.

I am happy to see that our friend Peter Greene, recently retired from teaching, just published an article in Forbes. This makes me hopeful that business folk might learn from his wisdom.

In this article, he explains the conundrum of the Common Core. It was supposed to save the world, lift education to new heights, and achieve other miracles but it suddenly became so toxic that states started claiming they had dropped it—even when they hadn’t.

As usual, what matters most are the tests, not the standards. In a time-honored, inevitable practice, teachers have revised them to fit their own classrooms.

But, lo, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute discovered a huge difference that everyone but TBF attributes to Common Core. Teachers are dropping classic literature. For one thing, the CORE prioritizes non-fiction Over fiction. For another, students are expected to do close reading, which prepares them for the snippets of text on a standardized test.

TBF says “teachers should take another look at their ELA curriculum to make sure they aren’t overlooking classic works of literature. Although it’s encouraging that ELA teachers are assigning more informational texts and literary nonfiction, as the CCSS expect, it’s concerning that they seem to be doing so at the expense of “classic works of literature.””

TBF received millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to advocate for the adoption of the Common Core, even in states where the English curriculum was far superior to the Common Core, with Massachusetts as the prime example.

They are hardly in a position now to disown the consequences of the Core, which many English teachers predicted.

Jamie Gass at the conservative Pioneer Institute bemoans what Common Core has done to the teaching of classic literature, which used to be the Crown Jewels of the Massachusetts English language arts curriculum. (FYI, I totally detest the Pioneer Institute on charter schools, but like to read Jamie Gass on literature.)

Gass refers to “The Count of Monte Christo” as a novel that belongs in the curriculum but has been banished by the fetishes of the Common Core.

He writes:

“Since 2005, Massachusetts, with K-12 English standards that were rich in classical literature, has outperformed every other state on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), “the nation’s report card.” Reading books like “The Count of Monte Cristo” helped students achieve this distinction.

“The author’s father, Thomas-Alexandre (Alex) Dumas, son of a scoundrel French marquis and a black slave woman, is the subject of Tom Reiss’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, “The Black Count.” Alex’s life was something beyond improbable: ascending from slavery in the Caribbean sugar colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) to command 50,000 men in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic armies. General Dumas was the heroic inspiration for his son’s adventure novels.

“Alexandre Dumas’s intriguing plots elevate our understanding of history, geography and culture. Few authors can use swashbuckling action to ignite students’ imaginations, while simultaneously teaching about the glory and treachery within human nature.

“Sadly, in 2010 the Bay State abandoned its literature-rich English standards for inferior national ones, the Common Core, which slashed fiction by 60 percent and stagnated NAEP reading scores. Marginalizing great books deprives schoolchildren of legendary stories that can transform young lives.

“The Count of Monte Cristo” is Dumas’s most thought-provoking novel. This revenge thriller features an innocent, uneducated French sailor, Edmond Dantes. His naiveté allows him to be manipulated by scheming Machiavels, who unjustly imprison him for 14 years in the notorious dungeon fortress, Chateau d’If.

“While incarcerated, Edmund is befriended by a wise, aging inmate, Abbe Faria, who teaches him to understand timeless writings, dissect conspiracies, and become a skillful swordsman. Abbe also reveals to Edmund the whereabouts of a buried treasure. Once Edmund escapes, wealth and knowledge transform his identity into the calculating Count of Monte Cristo, who shrewdly exacts his revenge on the malicious villains.

“Dumas’s enduring lessons also apply to K-12 education policy: Wily and self-serving adults would sooner consign unschooled young people to futures of intellectual solitary confinement than teach them the classic texts and ideas that might ensure their survival in the world.

“How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid?” Dumas asked prophetically. “It must be education that does it.”

“Decades of research report that “boredom,” which another writer called “the shriek of unused capacity,” is the major reason one million students annually drop out of high school. Eighty percent of America’s minority-majority prison population are dropouts. Education bereft of great stories like Dumas’s will only exacerbate this crisis.”

Mike Petrilli, meet Jamie Gass.

Don’t tell teachers to teach classic literature when you pushed standards that diminished their value.

The Common Core killed classic literature, except for those daring teachers that defy the district and state mandates of the Common Core standards.

Kate Raymond of the University of Oklahoma challenges the claim by Mate Weirdl of the University of Tennessee that the Common Core is deeply flawed in the early grades.


As a mathematics educator, I was disturbed by recent comments made by Dr. Mate Wierdl on your blog site and felt the need to contact you to respond, educator to educator.

It is interesting to me that Dr. Wierdl ended this comment by saying he is not an expert on ELA; implying that he is an expert on the teaching and learning of mathematics. While Dr. Wierdl is a mathematics Ph.D., nowhere could I find any reference to education he has received or research he has done on teaching and learning.

Perhaps if he had such an education, he might have avoided some elementary mistakes he made in his critique of the common core. While I am by no means a proponent of, or an expert in, common core mathematics, the baseless and inaccurate assumptions Dr. Wierdl only serves to muddy the waters when it comes to a discussion of standards, curriculum and assessment in mathematics education. In large part, this is because Dr. Wierdl fails to distinguish between standards (which can generally be thought of as goals), curriculum (the experiences of students) and assessment (a measure of students’ understandings). Most fundamentally, Dr. Wierdl has conflated Common Core Standards with the standardized tests referred to in the article that compares Finland and the US. The tests referred to in that article were not written by the creators of common core, and the literature in mathematics education already documents that they are not well aligned with the intentions or the content of common core; the article itself references this problem when it speaks to the fact that Pearson, a for profit company, developed both textbooks series and standardized tests for the state of New York. So to critique the common core based on these tests is simply illegitimate.

More disturbing however, Dr. Wierdl makes several assumptions that, had he had an education in teaching and learning, he might have avoided. For example, he states that young children can intuitively understand the difference between 12 and 21. While I am sure this was intuitive for him as a young student, research shows that for the vast majority of students, this is not at all intuitive. Young children often see the difference between these two numbers as akin to something like * # verses # *.

Would you necessarily see these two as fundamentally differently? Would you intuitively know that one is larger than the other? As the article that Dr. Wierdl points out, students are just learning to read in grade one; that includes learning to read numbers. Many mathematics standards, including Finland’s, as it turns out, place an emphasis on “properties of numbers” and “the use of manipulatives to break down and assemble numbers” (language I quote from a description of the Finnish mathematics standards, see http://timssandpirls.bc.edu/timss2015/encyclopedia/countries/finland/the-mathematics-curriculum-in-primary-and-lower-secondary-grades/) in order to help students build a schema for understanding numbers. While many (but not all) students may be able to successfully add relatively small numbers without such a schema, those who do not begin to have difficulty in adding and/or multiplying large numbers. For example, if asked to add 3472 and 1248, students without such schema struggle to remember when to “carry” (or “borrow”, for subtraction), because they have not build the concept that 2 and 8 make one whole ten (so that they can carry a one to the tens place) or that that carried ten, the 70 in the first number and the 40 in the second number combine to be one whole hundred and two extra tens, so that a 2 should be placed in the tens column while a 1 is carried to the hundreds column.

The difficulties become even more pronounced when students are asked to multiply 54 times 19. I would imagine Dr. Wierdl, like many mathematicians, is fluent enough to understand that he can multiply this in a number of ways, including multiplying 54 by 20 (which is a much more simple problem due to the round number) and subtract 54 to get 1080-54= 1026, rather than a long step by step procedure which often makes very little sense to young children. I imagine that Dr. Wierdl finds such flexibility with numbers intuitive, but research shows most students do not. However, students’ ability to be flexible with numbers can be greatly improved if they learn to communicate mathematical thinking. Vygotsky’s social constructivist theories of learning have been proven time and again in mathematics education research; students learn by reflecting on their own thinking and the mathematical thinking of others. This is reflected in Common Core and other standards by emphasizing the development of students abilities to communicate mathematically, a skill by which Dr. Wierdl makes a living. However, contrary to Dr. Wierdl’s assertion, I challenge anyone to find a set of standards that requires students to “explain the difference every time they see it”.

Given all of that, I do agree that “fake” real life questions are a significant problem in US mathematics instruction. However, while standards promote application of mathematics to real problems, nowhere do the standards promote the use of contrived “fake” real life scenarios. Those scenarios are largely the result of textbooks (which are generally not developed by writers of standards) and teachers who do not have the educational background or mathematical strength to apply mathematics in more authentic and interesting ways. This is again a problem with the curriculum, not the standards, and one that is being addressed by many leading experts in mathematics education (see https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover, for example).

While I have a Master’s degree in mathematics, I would not presume to present myself as an expert in the field of mathematics. Since Dr. Wierdl has no background in education, I would respectfully ask that he do the same and that the community at large be wary of opinions put forth by ‘experts’ who have no background in teaching and learning.
Sincerely,
Dr. Kate Raymond

Kate Raymond, PhD
Department of Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum
Mathematics Education
University of Oklahoma
Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education
820 Van Vleet Oval, ECH 114
Norman, OK, 73071
kate.m.raymond@ou.edu