Expert Testimonies Concerning Common Core State Standards
I. Testimony of CCSS Validation Committee Member Dr. Sandra Stotsky:
Common Core Holds Minimalist Conception of College Readiness, Weakens Literary Base
Dr. Sandra Stotsky served on the National Validation Committee for the Common Core State Systemic Initiative and on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, co-authoring its final report as well as two of its task group reports. She also served on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She was Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education and a research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, directing an institute on civic education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She served as editor of Research in the Teaching of English, the research journal sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. She has taught elementary school, French and German at the high school level, and graduate courses in reading, children’s literature, writing pedagogy, and English language arts standards.
When Dr. Sandra Stotsky served on the CCSS Validation Committee, she refused to sign off on the standards because they were far from adequate. Dr. Stotsky stated:
“The wisest move all states could make to ensure that students learn to read, understand, and use the English language appropriately before they graduate from high school is first to abandon Common Core’s “standards” and ask the National Governors Association to ask a national organization devoted to authentic literary study (ALSCW, e.g.,) to develop a set of high school literature standards that could serve as the backbone of a coherent literature curriculum from grade 6-12, with successively more diffcult texts required from grade to grade.”
Dr. Stotsky also testified that:
“Beyond the lack of clarity from the outset about what college readiness was intended to mean and for whom, Common Core has yet to provide a solid evidentiary base for its minimalist conceptualization of college readiness–and for equating college readiness with career readiness. Moreover… it had no evidence on both issues.”
A Boston Globe article cited Dr. Stotsky and co-author Ze’ev Wurman, stating:
“High academic standards are the foundation of Massachusetts’ landmark education reform success. Let’s not give them up for a set of so-called college readiness standards that won’t even get our children into college.”
In a Pioneer Institute white paper (http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/common_core_standards.pdf ) Dr. Stotsky concluded that:
“…By adopting Common Core’s standards for their own, California and Massachusetts significantly weaken the intellectual demands on students in the areas of language and literature. They also weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for actual college-level work now implied by each state’s current or draft standards.”
Dr. Stotsky also pointed out that David Coleman, the leader of the ELA standards, is not a professor, not a teacher, and never has been a good choice for his position.
II. Statement About Common Core by Stanford University Professor Michael W. Kirst :
My concern is the assertion in the draft that the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven from the evidence presented in the draft.
The ELA standards hedge this issue by saying “the evidence strongly suggests that similar reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills are necessary for success in both the college and workplace.” There is no similar wording preceding the math standards. I have reviewed the sources included in the draft, and cannot follow how the panel deduced that college and career readiness standards are the same.
Some basic underlying assumptions used by the panel are unclear. For example, what level of jobs in the O*NET job zone classifications of 1-5 did the panel use in its deliberations? For example, preparation needed for zone 4 jobs is mostly the same as a 4 year college standards, but this is not true for ONET zone 2 jobs. Another issue that needs to be clarified is whether the panel endorses a multiple pathways concept that a career and technical education in secondary school needs to keep the option open for all students to obtain a 4 year degree.
I have worked intensively with some states in the college/career readiness issue. Policymakers find it difficult to understand why the standards are the same for the flagship state university and their technical college system (e.g. Georgia, Texas, etc.). … if you examine closely the math requirements in Kentucky for specific occupations for a technical program like welding, there are very specific secondary school preparation differences for 3 programs offered in specific community and technical colleges : the Associate of Applied Science (ASS), diploma, or certificate program. The latter two programs may not need to meet the mathematics proposed in the common core draft. Each separate terminal award (A.S.S, diploma, certificate) utilizes a different set of math courses for completion. I am unclear whether the panel had these distinctions in mind as it prepared this draft.
… I chaired the National Assessment Governing Board Technical Panel on 12th Grade Preparedness Research. On pages 18-23 of our final report, we present our strategy for funding needed research for discovering the academic standards for workplace preparedness. Our approach seems different from those embedded in the sources consulted for career readiness in the draft.
The NAGB technical panel pointed out that many occupations do not have a consistent training core. Some occupations require substantial geometry, while others may focus more heavily on algebra, or simple numerical computations.
The NAGB panel crafted a research strategy to identify examples of occupations deemed most informative for estimating the entry-level reading and mathematics requirements for multiple sections of the labor force. Then we support identifying job training programs targeting jobs in the exemplar occupations. The next step would be to identify ELA and mathematics training performance standards for entry into each occupation. This would include interviewing personnel who actually prepare CTE workers in the exemplary occupations.
This seems to be a more valid and precise method of discovering CTE standards…This could exaggerate skill requirements to begin the academic preparation needed for an occupation at postsecondary education institution.
III. Testimony Concerning Common Core by Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman,
Member of the California Commission to Review Common Core Standards
Ze’ev Wurman, a software engineer from Palo Alto, was a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development from 2007-09 and served on the California commission that reviewed the Common Core standards in 2010. He serves on the panel that reviews mathematics test items for the California standards-based tests, and was a member of the California State mathematics curriculum framework committee.
The Common Core standards are mediocre: They are clearly better than those of about 30 states, as good as those of 15 about states, and clearly worse than those of three states, California among them. Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core is not on par with international high achievers, nor will meeting Common Core qualify students for entry to either CSU or UC. In fact, California had to significantly supplement the standards just to close the gap between the Common Core and our current standards, which incidentally are based on those of high-achieving countries and will qualify students for CSU.
EdSource estimated the implementation cost of the Common Core for California to be $1.6 billion. That estimate does not include the massive technology infusion needed for the federally peddled national assessment, nor does it include the cost of restructuring the teacher preparation courses, the licensure examination, and principal training. Recently, the state Department of Education published its initial estimates of implementation costs. If we just take three basic numbers from them – $203 per student in new textbooks in K-8, $2,000 per each math and English teacher training, and $1,000 for English Learning training for almost every teacher – this comes to $850 million, $360 million, and $260 million respectively, close to EdSource’s original estimate.
Based on the number of existing classroom computers in the state, we need to spend $220 million to buy additional computers to bring their number to the minimal ratio of one computer to four tested students, and another $60 million to install and wire them, to provide bandwidth, and to train the staff. These sums amount to one-time spending over the next 2-3 years; afterward, we will need to spend an additional $35 million annually for assessment (at an optimistic $10 per student more than today) and $75 million more for computer support and amortization. ..
What is the logic behind adopting the Common Core, anyway? Do we really believe that a diverse country like ours needs some central planner in Washington, D.C., to tell us what to teach in our California schools? Canada and Australia don’t think so, yet they are high educational achievers. Are we really willing to sacrifice our independence just to satisfy Obama and Duncan in Washington? …California should bail out and return to its own standards as soon as possible. Losing the Race to the Top was a blessing in disguise; we should now take advantage of it.
“Federal involvement in the Common Core national standards push is not some figment of
the imagination. Billions in federal funding, strings-attached NCLB waivers, and
significant rhetorical support clearly point to a nationalization of the content taught in the
local schools. . . . South Carolina – and states across the country – are right to have pause
about this latest federal overreach. And they shouldn’t be ridiculed by a federal agency
that has already done plenty to centralize education spending and authority.”
“The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement. The quality or
rigor of state standards has been unrelated to NAEP [National Assessment of Educational
progress] scores. Moreover, most of the variation in NAEP scores lies within states, not
between them. Whatever impact standards alone can have on reducing within-state
differences should have been already felt by the standards that all states have had since
“Implementation of the Common Core Standards is likely to represent substantial
additional expense for most states [estimated at $16 billion nationwide]. . . . [S]tates
should step back and encourage a public discussion of the potential benefits and costs of
implementing the Common Core Standards. Is realigning the local education system
to the Common Core Standards the best investment of scarce educational resources?
What are the other options that should be considered?”
“In the U.S., advocates of a national curriculum have for years pointed to nations
at the top of TIMSS and PISA rankings and argued that because those countries
have national curriculums, a national curriculum must be good. The argument is
without merit. What the advocates neglect to observe is that countries at the bottom
of the international rankings also have a national curriculum. . . . [T]here is no
meaningful evidence that national standards lead to better outcomes.”
Edwin Meese III, former U. S. Attorney General
“[T]here is no constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national
assessments, or national curricula. . . . Even if the development of national curriculum
models, frameworks, or guidelines were judged lawful, we do not believe Congress or
the public supports having them developed by a self-selected group behind closed
doors and with no public accountability.”
American Principles Project
“The Common Core Standards facilitate the practically unlimited sharing of our
children’s private, personally identifiable data with other government agencies
such as the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, and even with
Ze’ev Wurman, former U. S.Department of Education official
“[E]ven the defenders of the national standards do not claim they are at the level
of international high achievers. Currently South Carolina has good standards in
English and mathematics, even as they can be improved. . . . [I]ts new history
standards are the best in the nation, and its science standards are also excellent
and among the top 5 in the nation. South Carolina showed it can improve the
standards on its own if it so wishes and has no need to trade them for mediocre
standards that transfer control out of state to Washington, D.C.”
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform, University of Arkansas
“Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for English language arts and
reading are simply empty skill sets. . . . Common Core’s ELA ‘college readiness’
standards weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for
authentic college coursework.”