Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Common Core Math; From a Math Professor's View

Thanks to S Parent for bringing this to our attention.

 From the Wall Street Journal and UC Berkeley math professor, Marina Ratner, I think it is one swell piece of writing that - in a straight-forward manner - explains why Common Core is deeply flawed. 

Ms. Ratner is professor emerita of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. She was awarded the international Ostrowski Prize in 1993 and received the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences, of which she is a member, in 1994.

 I loved this part at the beginning of the article:

As a mathematician I was intrigued, thinking that there must be something really special about the Common Core. Otherwise, why not adopt the curriculum and the excellent textbooks of highly achieving countries in math instead of putting millions of dollars into creating something new?

Why indeed?

Yet the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are "internationally benchmarked." They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.

It became clear that the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.

And this is a theme you hear a lot - these standards are NOT to get students into better colleges/universities but to just get them into any college or university.  

Her review of the 6th grade Common Core math comes from working with her own grandson.  And, once again, we see that math is becoming more about writing than math.  A story problem for every problem on the homework?  C'mon.


Anonymous said...

Leave the math to computers, I want to dance!

Fat Brain

TechyMom said...

Math is my dance. The numbers are beautiful. The word problems and applications were the tax on the beautiful numbers. The way it is taught now hides this.

Math was one small bright spot that got me through some dismal years in middle school. I doubt that would be true for me today. It certainly hasn't been for my daughter, who has been taught by SPS to hate math. That makes me very sad.

Anonymous said...

Why standards at all? That's what makes me really sad. Is it really ever such a great thing to say, "I met standard." ??? Will anybody get a medal or scholarship for that? My child in private school certainly doesn't have to endure that waste of time. Not to mention, the enormous amount of time spent testing alone. And my private school child gets a vastly superior education - just because of the freedom from constant testing.

My other kid's public school is essentially shut down for 6 weeks starting in April. (and that doesn't even count MAP testing in fall or winter) Lots of people think that just because their kid can whiz through a computer test in an hour or two, that their time spent testing will be limited to that. Think again. 7th graders are required to take 5 standardized tests in spring. There's always a handful of kids who spend the whole day on each test. Guess what everyone else must do while the slowpokes finish? They get to do - absolutely nothing, while they wait. Every computer in the school is clogged up testers at all grade levels. The library is shut down. Cafeterias are full of testers. The typical K-8 has something like 60 or 70 computers, and 600+ students must cycle through those computers for testing. Remember those kids spending the whole day on their test? Or some other kids requiring 1:1? Imagine waiting for them at every grade level. That is exactly what happens. Nearly all staff is busy dealing with testing, or subbing in for staff testing.

And let's not forget. High schools all have a fulltime "testing coordinator". Yes. A fulltime staff person, just to do testing. Now that sounds like a really cool job. NOT.

And when it's all said and done, 2nd week in June. The last test is finished. Well, nobody can really get back to doing any work. That's the reality. Public schools are really losing 2 months of instruction - just for spring testing. And that's all a result of "standards" madness, which has no effect on private school kids at all.

Seen It

dan dempsey said...

Harken back to the Elementary School Math adoption.... Adam Dysart (undergrad degree in Sociology) tossed out JUMP Math because only the 4,5,6 books were common core and the 1,2,3 books would not be common core until this fall.

Banda apparently got bent out of shape that the Board wasn't buying complete BS.

Thus instead of examining books that had been shown to work... SPS MAC made a decision on what was thought might work.

Banda needed to go to Sacramento after this clown move. He stated that he was leaving but this district was in good shape with the team he had assembled... Huh???

dan dempsey said...

About the state legislature and Common Core adoption...

#1. Adopted sight unseen but required Dorn to submit a big report on Common Core impact by Jan 1, 2011 or before.

#2. Dorn failed to do that but the legislature did not care. Dorn's report was a month late and showed up less than a week before a big vote on Common Core.

#3 the above was a state law written for Mr. Dorn in bill 6696.

#4 it was just too important that Dr. Joe Wilhoft of WASL fame become the executive director of SBAC so that WA could have more input into process.... So how is that working out for us?

#5. Sharon Tamika Santos would not allow a bill to delay adoption on common core to be heard.

Charlie Mas said...

Why Standards at all?

An excellent question. Standards are simply a detailed statement of what knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire with each grade level. Why do we need these benchmarks?

The cynical answer is that they make it easier for the management class and executive class to assess student progress by quantifying what is essentially a qualitative thing. The sympathetic answer is that the Standards allow us to identify students who are "falling behind" so we can provide them with interventions. The political answer is that Standards assure the public that they are getting their money's worth and that the final Standards assure that our high school diplomas are meaningful.

Standards, in all of these interpretations, primarily exist to facilitate accountability.

If it were not for students who never get needed interventions, if it were not for the poor quality of education managers, and if it were not for stories of illiterate high school graduates, such accountability tools would not be necessary.

Standards, let's acknowledge, are a tool. They are a tool like any other. They can be used wisely and correctly so they provide benefit or they can be misused or used foolishly so they cause harm.

On the good side, Standards have forced us to confront the existence of the academic achievement gap. They haven't helped us to address the gap, but they did force us to see it.

On the bad side, Standards, intended in theory as a floor, function in practice as a ceiling. Moreover, as Seen it has noted, a Standards fetish has given them much more focus than they deserve, resulting in excessive testing and influencing decisions like textbook selection in negative ways.

Standards are not, in themselves, a bad thing. It is the excessive focus on Standards, the misuse of Standards, and the misapplication of Standards that causes trouble. This is usually the fault of poor or lazy managers who use Standards as a short-cut to doing their jobs.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie mentioned the use of Standards as a short cut used by managers for doing their job...

Hmmm... look at the elementary school math adoption process and manager Adam Dysart for proof. His moved of immediately disqualifying any texts not judged to be common core aligned left a huge number of books on which no substantive data on efficacy was available and very few with much data.

Ignore relevant data in favor of "standards alignment" = idiocy

But ... likely necessary after all those Envision placements at so many elementary schools without waivers... Why is Tolley still employed?

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced that Dr. Ratner speaks for all students. Unlike TechyMom, math is not my dance. I couldn't begin to understand what dividing one fraction by another even means without drawing some kind of model. I have not been able to read Dr. Ratner's article, but it sounds like Dr. Ratner advocates for the Bolshoi-level mathematicians. Those of us who can barely clump around the dance floor to a waltz beat need math too!


Anonymous said...

Tolley is still employed because the
students have not demanded his termination. So, have your student write an email to Dr. Larry Nyland at and ask him to terminate Tolley. If 10,000 emails arrive daily at I sure something will happen.


Patrick said...

I'm sure something would happen. He'd get a different emailbox.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that parents and students just sit back and do nothing. Do people really think SPS and it's staff care about students?

I have over 7,500 emails gathered from SPS and they tell a very disturbing story of teacher's impunity of law and discuss for parents and disdain of special needs students.

The system is morally bankrupt.

It's not clear what you want to save or why it's worth saving.

Before I started down the path I'm on, I believed in the public school system and if anyone would mention "charter schools" I would argue on the side of public education.

As I read the numerous
emails a common theme emerged that teachers believe some how the CBA
provides immunity from laws and morels. Teachers that do speak up are threatened and pushed out unless they conform. The leaders are best described as "bullies".

There must be some form of charter schools that will work because this mess called SPS can't continue and I don't see any urgency from SPS for change.


Anonymous said...

More math discussion from Tom Loveless, in Six Myths in the New York Times Math Article by Elizabeth Green ((Brookings Institution blog).


TechyMom said...

To me, the point of school is to help each child discover and develop his or her unique talents and interests. (Find their cutie marks, for My Little Pony fans).

To that end, there needs to be math for kids who love math and for kids who don't. The same is true of art, dance, writing, athletics, etc. That probably means different courses and texts based on student choice.

Helping students discover and develop their talents and interests does not seem to be the goal of public schools. I think that is why so many parents and students find it unsatisfying.

dan dempsey said...

Parent, Thanks for the six myths link. Super Duper.