Against core standards

Today, California’s board of education is expected to adopt the Common Core Standards already approved by 30-odd states.

Dissenters Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman believe California will trade eighth-grade algebra for an “obese, unteachable” math course. Despite the state standards, many eighth graders can’t handle algebra.  Yet Evers and Wurman argue that setting the bar high has helped students.

Over the past decade and a half, California’s Latino student population has almost doubled from 30 percent to over 50 percent, many of them facing special learning challenges. Yet the number of students taking algebra by eighth grade has jumped from 16 percent to 60 percent, while the success rate has jumped from 39 percent to 48 percent since 2002. In 2002, only a third of high school students took Algebra 2 by grade 11; now more than half take it, and with increasing success rates.

More importantly, between 2003 and 2009 the number of African American students successfully taking Algebra 1 by grade 8 more than tripled from 1,700 to 5,400; the jump among Hispanic students was from 10,000 to 45,000; and for students from low-income households, from 12,000 to 49,000. Algebra 2 in high school shows similar results. Finally, since 1997, California State University freshman enrollment has doubled from 25,000 to 50,000, while remediation rates in mathematics have dropped from 54 percent to 37 percent.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders, a veteran of the “math wars,” warns that going from “fuzzy crap” math — as the state education secretary called it — to eighth-grade algebra was a tough fight: “Once you’ve captured turf, you have to hold it.”

Massachusetts, another state with high standards, already has adopted the common core. Sandra Stotsky, who helped create the state’s standards, protests the decision.

In a New York Times’ Room for Debate last year, Stotsky said English teachers aren’t prepared to teach the common core English Language Arts standards, which call for students to learn to read scientific and historical texts as part of English class.

Go here to read Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade: Why California and Massachusetts Must Retain Control Over Their Academic Destinies by Stosky and Wurman.

Pushed hard by Arne Duncan, all but a few states seem certain to adopt the new standards. How will they implement them? That’s another question.

Update: Minnesota will not adopt Common Core Standards; they think the math standards are unclear and want to retain local control.

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  1. Student of History says:

    Anyone unsure as to whether Common Core is about academic content or nationalizing a “one size fits all” in an inclusive classroom using a discovery, activity approach should look at these Model Teaching Standards.

  2. Student of History says:

    Just in case there’s any confusion that Common Core is also intended to serve as a platform to make students feel aggrieved about local and international political issues and to never forget to bring their cultural background into the classroom, CCSSO also issued this forthright accompanying document.

    Not much autonomy left to the local school board on what works.

  3. bill eccleston says:

    Tell me this document, “Model Core Teaching Standards” is a satire…Please! “The teacher realizes that content knowledge is not a fixed body of facts but is…culturally situated”.Math culturally situated? Biology? Onward Post Christian Soldiers! You know, what we really need is great satirist to take on the themes of these people, a contemporary Mark Twain to send up the self-importance of being progressively earnest. I’m thinking the stage. This stuff could be hilarious in front of a live audience. Unfortunately, though, as a Rhode Island teacher, I might have to write the script myself: I see our former Commissioner of Education, Peter McWalters, is one of the top bananas of the CCSSO. His acolytes still in power
    here eat this stuff up. I’m sure they’ll be visiting my classroom soon, pencils sharpened. Better have the kids rehearsed and ready…

  4. Student of History says:

    No satire but make sure you read both links.

    State Policy Implications is even more forthright in what is planned under Common Core.

    So has each state that has adopted the Common Core standards automatically agreeing that they will be taught via the constructivist methods described in these Model Teaching Standards?

  5. bill eccleston says:

    Thanks, Student of History, I just skimmed the “Implications” document. You might call the whole thing, the both of them, “The Empire Strikes Back.” The most ridiculous premise articulated in “Implications” is the idea that this thinking is new. The focus on assessment does look like an addition to the tired old bag, but aside from that, these documents could have been written in 1980, or 1918 if you drop the marxist cultural criticism. I hate to admit it, but I think this represents a steamroller we cannot stop. Not in my neck of the woods, anyway. Again, I think the best defense is art.

  6. Student of History says:

    It’s hard to read through these documents and not think we are essentially going to a policy of “intellectual socialism” in our K-12 classrooms.

  7. bill eccleston says:

    I’d argue that this is not a case of “going to” but rather of “been there, still there, and damn sure we’ll stay even if yet another generation of poor kids, white and dark, goes down in the ship with us.” These standards, with a bone thrown to assessment and accountability, are just the 1992 standards up-dated; and those were almost exactly the original, Bull Moose and WCTU era “progressive ideals”, fixed and pickled for long shelf-life in a fluid tinctured by the marxist criticism that made such an impression on the Boomers attending teacher’s college in the ’60’s. To scratch another itch these tired old ideas give me, I notice that 71% of the committee that produced them were women. No surprise. Schools today are dominated by women, ask any middle school boy. How does this committee, or any committee of its like, get off referencing gender studies as informative of teaching practice when that field has so ignored the questions raised by this obvious fact? Self-censorship? Laziness? Hasn’t anyone in the field ever wondered if, just maybe, unexamined gender bias on the part of the females running the joint just might be a problem for Little Johnny, and Jane, too? There is no scholarship! It is as if you had “Racial Studies” in the curricula of American colleges in the antebellum era and yet, search far and wide, you couldn’t find a monograph on slavery! Whazup with that?


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