Unless high school students can prepare for a calculus course in grade 12 or as college freshmen, they are unlikely to become science, engineering, or mathematics majors. Common Core doesn’t let them. James Milgram’s analysis in Lowering the Bar makes that very clear.
Interestingly, Jason Zimba, the lead writer of the Core’s math standards, noted as much at the March 2010 meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. He explained that Common Core’s version of college readiness means getting kids ready for non-selective community and state colleges. According to the official minutes of the meeting: “Mr. Zimba said that the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.” Just in case that isn’t clear enough for you, dear reader, here are Mr. Zimba’s videotaped comments at the meeting.
That is why in a September 2013 Hechinger Report piece Zimba acknowledged that: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”
Common Core proponents repeat the mantra that Common Core is about college and career readiness. But, given the limited mathematical literacy of most education policymakers, shouldn’t the federal government and other pro-Common Core organizations inform local and state educators in charge of secondary school curricula—and high-tech employers– about Common Core’s definition of college and career readiness?
It isn’t as if those who are mathematically literate are speaking up. In fact, it’s a puzzlement why the heads of the associations listed below, which should want secondary students prepared for STEM disciplines, expressed “strong support for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.” Why would these lemming leaders endorse K-12 mathematics standards that prevent students from preparing for a STEM career? Did the “presidents” of these associations actually review Common Core’s high school standards before putting their names and the names of their organizations on the dotted line? These folks need to be put on the record – how do they justify signing onto a set of mathematics standards that do not lead to STEM careers?
“…We, the undersigned presidents of the following member societies of CBMS (Conference of the Board of Mathematical Sciences), hereby express our strong support for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”
American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges
American Mathematical Society
American Statistical Association
Association for Symbolic Logic
Institute of Mathematical Statistics
Mathematical Association of America
National Association of Mathematicians
National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
(H/t to Civil War Daily Gazette)
History will always be a blurry image, whether in real time today, or our understanding of it in the past. The picture above of President Lincoln at the platform in Gettysburg strikes me as powerful for all that I know and what I can only imagine of the scene and the moment in time.
The battle of ideas over how we educate our young is moving fast. The nationwide controversy about Common Core and what it means for kids in the classroom is now garnering hundreds of news articles (mainly negative) every week. That is the result of mounting pressure from parents, teachers, and legislative staff regarding the the quality of the content and the costs to states and localities. In a society where a free press constitutes a bulwark of our political and cultural system, history and public discourse are tethered to human agency and purpose in a way that is truly unique.
The sheer number of debates at the local and state level are astounding — and, frankly, hard to keep sight of.
Two stories that stand out for me this week are one in Indiana that underscores just how quickly Common Core has become as a political issue as significant as the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act; and, second, a controversy around Common Core’s way of teaching high school freshmen and sophomore to read the Gettysburg Address.
First out, Indiana, where the Hoosier State’s House Speaker Brian Bosma noted,
This phrase ‘Common Core’ has now become such a distraction. It is the only thing that approaches the phrase ‘Obamacare’ with concern and violent reaction around the state.
The Times of Northwest Indiana reports that Speaker Bosma, once a strong supporter of the Core, and Senate President David Long, are
direct[ing] the Republican-controlled Legislature to require Indiana create its own college- and career-ready standards, separate from Common Core.
If this is happening in Indiana, one of the states most committed to the Core, then you can understand why there are over dozens and dozens of bills around the country pausing or pulling out of the tests and/or Common Core completely.
Second up is a story this week in the Washington Post (building on previous stories on this in the Hechinger Report and elsewhere) showing how Common Core dumbs down the way in which kids read important historical texts like the Gettysburg Address. (Diane Ravitch also had a powerful blog post in response to the story.) The Post picked up on a Common Core “exemplar for instruction” created by the architects of the Core (Student Achievement Partners), which directs teachers of 9th and 10th graders to have students seek the meaning of the Gettysburg Address without reference to or knowledge of the Address’s historical context.
I was on Fox & Friends this weekend talking about the Core‘s oddly reductionist view of the role of human purpose in understanding historical texts like the Gettysburg Address to provide comment on why Common Core’s architects would develop a 30-page instructional guide telling teachers to refrain from giving any historical context.
Why no reference to that thing called the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg or even why President Lincoln at that moment may have traveled almost 100 miles to make the speech?
Well, as it turns out the lesson plan is actually very instructive. It was developed by SAP, a firm which was founded by David Coleman, Sue Pimentel and Jason Zimba, individuals who drove much of the Core’s development. As such, their lesson plan reveals a lot about the reading theory undergirding the Core. The lesson plan notes that teachers must emphasize “close reading,” so that kids who have historical knowledge of those events don’t have an “unfair” advantage over kids with no historical knowledge.
Think about that. The Core was marketed to states as part of a race to the top, not a race to the bottom, where — in order to ensure fairness for all students — complex historical texts must be approached at the lowest common denominator position (no historical information).
The instructional exemplar debated this week in the WaPo and elsewhere is not an anomaly: David Coleman (nice enough guy, bad ideas) restates the close-reading/
That claim has no imaginable justification. Without thinking about intention and human agency, how can students understand why Lincoln uses repetition or specific turns of phrase? Why does Lincoln push certain linguistic buttons and not others?
Set aside Common Core and common sense, of course, teaches us otherwise: History is little but the march of time without human agency and intent. Actually, it’s not even that. The clock (from the French word for bell – cloche) was created as a tool to help people organize time with purposes in mind: at first prayers, festivals, worship, and harvests; today, too much work.
Lincoln of course uses repetitions, a tone and phraseology because he has a purpose in mind. You’d have to be one of the unmarked dead on the fields of Gettysburg, to ignore human purpose in literature and such great speeches.
Coleman, contrary to the title of his October essay, is not cultivating wonder. While “why” is not the only form of wonder, it is the most persistent in a child’s mind. Any parent who’s had to plug his or her ears after the umpteenth “why” in a car ride knows that.
(Note that on Fox & Friends, I misspoke, referring to the number of casualties at Gettysburg [51,000], not the number of dead [8,000]).
Follow me on twitter at @jimstergios, visit Pioneer’s website, or check out our education posts at the Rock The Schoolhouse blog.
Today, as the nation commemorates one of history’s most famous speeches, Pioneer Institute proudly presents an archived video and transcript of a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian and Princeton University Professor Emeritus James M. McPherson. He spoke at “The Legacy of Lincoln: U.S. History in American Schooling,” a Pioneer forum held earlier this year, marking the 150th anniversary of both the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.
In the video, Professor McPherson quotes from the Gettysburg Address, and shares thoughts on its significance:
“Life and death in this passage have a paradoxical relationship: men died that the nation might live, yet the old Union also died, and with it would die the institution of slavery. After these deaths, the nation must have a “new birth of freedom” so that government of, by, and for the people that our fathers conceived and brought forth in the past “shall not perish from the earth” but live into the vast future, even unto the next millennium.”
The Civil War took the lives of over 600,000 Americans; another 405,000 were wounded. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought in July 1863, and left 50,000 casualties (the largest number of any Civil War battle). It was at the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery that President Lincoln delivered his famous address, on November 19, 1863.
Sadly, many of our children do not know these historical facts and human realities. That’s because student scores on national testing have seen decades of decline. National Assessment of Educational Progress results show that only 22 percent of US students test proficient in civics, and only 18 percent rate proficient in U.S. history.
In Massachusetts, passing a basic U.S. history MCAS test had long been scheduled to become a high school graduation requirement for the Class of 2012. But in 2009, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education abandoned it. As a result, history courses are being replaced with additional courses in tested content areas.
To have an understanding of the importance of these soldiers’ sacrifice, our schoolchildren need strong instruction in US history. Polling data show that Massachusetts parents, teachers, and state lawmakers support restoring the state assessment in US History as a graduation requirement.
Two Pioneer Institute reports, Shortchanging the Future: The Crisis of History and Civics in American Schools, and The Rise and Fall of the Study of American History in Massachusetts, note the general lack of understanding of American history in our society, because of how we teach history in K-12 schools.
With the Commonwealth’s students missing out on studying the Civil War, the time has come to restore our history to its rightful place in Massachusetts schools by reinstating the requirement that students pass a U.S. history MCAS test to graduate from high school.
Pioneer Institute has actively promoted rigorous, content-based academic standards that include U.S. history and civics instruction.
In January 2013, Pioneer hosted an event “The Founders and Slavery: Teaching U.S. History in Schools.” The keynote addresses were delivered by Dr. Howard Dodson, who directs Howard University’s Moorland-Springarn Research Center and Library System, and Dr. Jack Rakove, the William Robertson Coe professor of history and American studies and professor of political science at Stanford University. Professor Rakove won the Pulitzer Prize in History for his book Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution.
In May 2012, Pioneer hosted an event featuring presidential historians Willard Sterne Randall and Jeff Shesol, on “The Power of the U.S. Supreme Court: A Civics Lesson,” at which national pollster David Paleologos presented public opinion survey results demonstrating deep and wide support among Massachusetts social studies teachers, legislators, and citizens for restoring the passage of an MCAS U.S. history test as a high school graduation requirement.
In 2010, Pioneer held an event on the importance of a U.S. history-rich core knowledge curriculum that featured University of Virginia Professor Emeritus E.D. Hirsch, Jr., and Andrew J. Rotherham, former Clinton administration aide and co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education. (Transcript: The Sacred Fire of Liberty).
Pioneer also co-sponsored a conference in May 2008, “History and Civic Education: The Learning of Liberty for Civic Life,” with the Projects in Civic Engagement at Boston University’s School of Education. The event, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning and Brown University historian Gordon S. Wood, focused on preparing students with a working knowledge of U.S. History for active citizenship.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside,” Abraham Lincoln said. “If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
As we’ve argued in op-eds and commentary, the nation’s ongoing war of neglect of its own history is making President Lincoln’s words sound eerily far-sighted.
Pioneer Institute believes that all kids deserve access to a great education. That’s why we have always supported choices for parents and students, whether through interdistrict programs, vocational-technical schools, private and parochial schools, or high-quality charter schools. Earlier this year, we visited Community Day Charter Public Schools, an excellent group of schools serving grades K-8 students in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Lawrence is an older, industrial city, marked by high unemployment, a significant crime issue and a dysfunctional government. Its school district is in state receivership due to chronic underperformance and criminal malfeasance by the previous superintendent. Community Day has played a vital role in improving the prospects for children in the city. We wanted to learn more about why LCDCPS is such a success. In the video clip below, parents, current and former students, teachers and school staff share their experiences:
Community Day’s 8th graders have consistently scored far in excess of the district average on MCAS exams in all tested subjects. 95% scored Proficient or above on the 2013 MCAS exam in both ELA and math, compared to the district average of 48% in ELA and 31% in math. Community Day’s 8th graders ranked #1 in science and #2 in math, across the state. The school was commended in a Harvard study for its “extraordinary level of collaboration between and among teachers, parents, and school leaders.”
Under the leadership of Lawrence’s superintendent Jeff Riley, the Lawrence Public Schools have made progress. The percentage of district students scoring Proficient or above in mathematics increased between 2012 and 2013 in grades 3 (+17, from 39 to 56 percent), 5 (+11, from 27 to 38 percent), 8 (+11, from 19 to 30 percent), and 10 (+10, from 34 to 44 percent). We applaud that progress but we are also fully cognizant of the slope of the climb kids in Lawrence must make.
In 2012, over 4,000 Lawrence children languished on waiting lists to enroll in the city’s charter schools. They cannot afford to wait years for serious reforms to take effect – they need options now. Community Day has plans to expand to 400 students in grades K-8 by 2019, and it is partnering with the Lawrence Public Schools district to run the Community Day Arlington Elementary School. Other charter operators are also getting involved, but as Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios noted last year, at most 1,500 out of Lawrence’s 13,000 district students will be served by these changes.
More Massachusetts schoolchildren have an opportunity to benefit from the quality programs that charter schools like Community Day provide, if the state legislature enacts a bill that would lift the cap on charter schools in 29 low-performing school districts. As we’ve noted in numerous opinion pieces, our charter schools are a nationally recognized success story. In Boston, according to a Stanford University study published earlier this year, charter schools are doing more to close achievement gaps than any other group of public schools in the country. The typical Boston charter student gains the equivalent of over 12 months of additional learning in reading and 13 more months in math each year. A 2009 Boston Foundation report found that Boston charter schools dramatically outperformed both district and pilot schools (semi-autonomous district schools created in response to charters). It found that the academic impact from a year spent in a Boston charter was comparable to that of a year in one of the city’s elite exam schools and, in middle-school math, equivalent to one-half of the achievement gap between black and white students. It is time to spread the successes of the Community Day and Boston charter programs to more cities and towns throughout Massachusetts.
With cities like Washington, DC, opening the doors to more charter schools, their students are on a rising trajectory that is remarkable. Currently, 42 percent of DC’s schoolchildren attend charter schools. As the recent Nation’s Report Card demonstrated, the DC schools are improving faster than any other jurisdiction in the country. Allowing the 4,000 schoolchildren on the city’s charter school waitlist to attend charters would get Lawrence near the place where 42 percent of its kids are served by charter schools. That would be real reform – and given LCDCPS’ success, there is no reason why the adults should continue to block the schoolhouse door.
In October, members of the New Hampshire legislature heard Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, tell them more fibs than Pinocchio ever dreamed up. How many legislators will prove to be gullible Geppettos is another matter. We don’t know. But here’s an analysis of just a few paragraphs of his fib-filled comments.
1. A well-known mathematician, who was a member of the Validation Committee for the Common Core, has denounced the math standards as too low in relation to the standards set by other countries; this proves that the standards are dumbed down. They are not only lower than the standards of other countries, but also the standards of Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas, Minnesota, and California. It is true that James Milgram was a member of the Validation Committee and that he believes the standards are too low.
2. What the critics fail to mention is that, in addition to Milgram, there were mathematicians on the committee from Penn State, the University of Michigan, Macalaster College, Illinois State, Yale University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Arizona State University, California Polytechnic, Michigan State University, The University of Texas at Austin and Johns Hopkins University who did not agree with Milgram. In fact, no mathematician involved in producing or formally reviewing the standards agrees with Milgram.
3. The critics will also fail to tell you that virtually every national professional society of mathematicians and scientists have voted to support the Common Core State Standards. In short, an overwhelming majority of mathematicians support the Common Core State Standards and disagree with Milgram.
4. Massachusetts was for a long time viewed by many, especially the leading critics of the Common Core, as having the best standards in the country. When the current Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts took office, he commissioned two leading education research organizations to undertake studies comparing the Massachusetts state standards to the Common Core. Both reported that the Common Core standards are at least as high, if not higher, than the Massachusetts standards. Massachusetts decided to abandon its own standards and adopt the Common Core.
Let’s begin with Paragraph 2, since Tucker sets forth the fact in Paragraph 1 that he wants to contradict in order to discredit Milgram’s mathematical judgment on the quality of Common Core’s mathematics standards. Fact to be discredited: Milgram was the only mathematician on the Validation Committee. Indeed, according to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, there were “actually eight math experts on the Validation Committee, and six endorsed the standards.”
Here’s how these six “math experts” were described by CCSSI itself.
Sarah Baird, 2009 Arizona Teacher of the Year, K-5 Math Coach, Kyrene School District.
Jere Confrey—Senior Research Fellow and Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professor at the William & Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, North Carolina State University’s College of Education.
Feng-Jui Hsieh—Associate Professor in the Mathematics Department at the National Taiwan Normal University.
Jeremy Kilpatrick—Regents Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Georgia.
William Schmidt—University Distinguished Professor and Co-Director of Michigan State University’s Education Policy Center.
Norman L. Webb—Senior Research Scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the National Institute for Science Education, both based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Education.
As can be seen, all six of the “math experts” who “validated” Common Core’s mathematics standards are in an education school and/or spend their time on teacher education. That is not surprising; all have doctorates in education. Milgram, who has a doctorate in mathematics, was clearly the only mathematician on the Validation Committee. Tucker doesn’t know a mathematician from a mathematics educator, raising the question whether he knows what he is talking about at all.
Now let’s look at Paragraph 3. It is true that Professor William McCallum, a consultant to Achieve, Inc., a mathematics professor at Arizona State University, and a lead writer of Common Core’s mathematics standards, asked the heads of many national mathematics and science societies for endorsements, and he received them. However, there is no evidence that any of their members ever read Common Core’s high school mathematics standards. Nor is there evidence that any of their members disagree with Milgram’s judgment that there are no precalculus standards in Common Core or with Professor Jason Zimba’s acknowledgment that Common Core does not prepare high school students for STEM. If members of these organizations do endorse high school mathematics standards that intentionally do not prepare high school students for STEM, they should speak up now and explain why.
Finally, Paragraph 4. Mitchell Chester, current Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts, did not commission any leading education research organizations to compare the Massachusetts standards with Common Core’s. The comparisons were done by Achieve, Inc., by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and by WestEd for the Massachusetts Business Alliance in Education (MBAE).* None is considered a leading education research organization comparable, say, to the Rand Corporation or Mathematica Policy Research. More important is the documented fact that Achieve, Inc., Fordham, and the MBAE all received funding from the Gates Foundation, directly or indirectly, for this purpose. It is also well-known that a Race to the Top grant for $250,000,000 was promised to Massachusetts if it adopted Common Core’s standards.
Aside from the fact that the Gates Foundation was eager to promote adoption of Common Core’s standards by Massachusetts and that it has also given millions to help Marc Tucker promote his own ideas on education in recent years, there are several reasons for viewing Tucker’s comments about these “comparisons” with cynicism. First, not one of the evaluations of Common Core’s mathematics standards noted the absence of standards for a STEM-oriented Algebra II and pre-calculus course (course standards that were clearly in the Massachusetts curriculum framework). Nor did any of the evaluations note the almost 50/50 division of reading standards in Common Core’s English language arts between “informational” texts and literary texts from K-12, a visible point of contrast with the Massachusetts standards and their stress on the study of literature at all grade levels. A “leading education research organization” would have used a methodology that picked up salient features of a set of standards.
Tucker plays fast and loose with the facts, and in the future New Hampshire legislators and educators should make sure a fact-checker is on the premises for a debriefing after he speaks.
* The MBAE indicates clearly that it commissioned the WestEd comparison. Funding for the study came from the James B. Hunt Institute in North Carolina, which passed along funds given to it by the Gates Foundation for that purpose. http://www.mbae.org/index.php?s=common+core+comparison