Those Mathematical Societies That Supposedly Endorsed Common Core’s Standards Didn’t

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Stanford University mathematics professor R. James Milgram included an informative e-mail in his packet of information for state legislators when he testified at a hearing on Common Core in Milledgeville, Georgia on September 24, 2014. The e-mail explains why presidents of many of the major mathematical organizations in the country endorsed Common Core’s standards in July 2013. The author of the e-mail seems to believe that the societies themselves would be unlikely to endorse Common Core’s standards, but that readers (i.e., the public) might be misled into thinking they had if they saw that the presidents had endorsed the standards. Consequently, the e-mail wants just the presidents’ signatures because they would “likely” be just as “effective.” The underlying assumption is that the members of these organizations would not be apt to learn what their presidents had done, much less know anything about the contents of Common Core’s mathematics standards.

Appendix A shows the letter that Ron Rosier, Director of the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS), sent to all society presidents on June 28, 2013. (Telephone numbers and personal e-mail addresses have been deleted.) Appendix B shows the “support statement” posted on July 24, 2013 by Professor William McCallum, a “lead” Common Core mathematics standards writer. It contains the signatures of all those who were willing to respond to Rosier’s request.

The appendices make it clear that the support statement was to be signed by the presidents of CBMS member societies as a personal expression of support, not on behalf of their organizations. But it is also clear that the presidents were to be identified by means of their organization, not academic affiliation. Nor were they asked to review the Common Core standards but, rather, to provide a promotional statement for the Common Core. The support statement was posted on CBMS stationery less than a month after the initial request for signatures was sent out.

It is worth noting that the somewhat hostile legislators at the Georgia hearing never asked Professor Milgram: “What about these endorsements?”