Comments on Utah Waiver Application, Pages 24-25. Ze’ev Wurman, Palo Alto, Calif. July 2012
Myth: The structure of the new math standards are in line with that of countries with high mathematics achievement.
Fact: CCSS are not any closer to high achieving countries than Utah’s 2007 standards. CCSS stopped claiming that they reflect what high achieving countries are doing and now they only claim that the standards are “informed by top-performing countries,” whatever it may mean. In particular, the high school programs of the high achieving countries closely resemble the 2007 Utah traditional sequence (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II) and are completely different from the CCSS integrated Math-I, Math-II, Math-III sequence that Utah recently adopted.
Myth: The rigor and complexity of the new standards begins in Kindergarten and continues to accelerate through high school using an integrated approach. For example, students in ninth grade will be studying topics formerly common in Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2.
Fact: It is true the CCSS are quite demanding in the early primary grades, but they significantly slow down by the third grade, and by grade eight they are one to two years behind what top-achieving countries expect of their students. The only mathematician on the CCSS Validation Committee refused to certify the Standards writing: “large number of the arithmetic and operations, as well as the place value standards are one, two or even more years behind the corresponding standards for many if not all the high achieving countries.” (Appendix B, http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/ common_core_standards.pdf )
Myth: The new core’s structure allows more flexibility to accelerate learning for students as they progress through their secondary education.
Fact: The new high school core is, if at all, less flexible and less demanding than the previous one. It is composed of loosely defined “integrated” courses in contrast to previous traditional coherent curricular courses of Algebra I and II, and Geometry. Further, these integrated courses exclude chunks of content that was traditionally taught in Geometry and Algebra II such as logarithmic and trigonometric functions and identities, complex number arithmetic, conic sections, infinite geometric sequences, mathematical induction, and more. As the result, it is expected that with this curriculum students will have more difficulty to take Concurrent Enrollment courses, or Advance Placement Calculus, in their senior year.
Myth: The new core includes Honors courses beginning in seventh grade and provides higher level math courses such as Calculus or AP Statistics for students who are ready to accelerate.
Fact: The accelerated (“Honors”) program starting in the seventh grade that is offered by CCSS (and Utah) is a poor replacement for an honest pre-Algebra course that Utah offers today. The proposed seventh grade program pushes a handful 8th standards into 7th grade, about half of them geometry,
creating a bloated seventh grade course unnecessarily heavy on geometry. It is somewhat similar to what states did for acceleration more than a decade ago, when less than 20% of their students succeeded in taking Algebra by grade 8.
Myth: In seventh and eighth grade, Honors courses contain extra topics not included in the former core. These topics include elements from discrete mathematics, non-traditional geometries, different counting systems, and other mathematics that would be interesting to advanced middle school students. … These courses have increased rigor and advanced content that will challenge the minds of high-ability students.
Fact: There is absolutely nothing in the seventh and eighth grade Utah’s CCSS curriculum that touches on discrete mathematics, “non-traditional” (presumably non-Euclidean) geometries, or “different” counting systems. Unless this document refers to something different from what Utah’s Board of Education had approved, as presented on the Utah Education Network site, it has no connection with reality. Consequently the promise to challenge high ability students rings hollow.
Myth: Courses for all students are much more advanced than in previous class work. Students on the regular pathway will be prepared for Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, or CE in their senior year. In the accelerated pathway to high school (AP), calculus is a compacted version of Secondary I, II, III and Pre- Calculus and will begin in ninth grade. This pathway allows students successfully completing the three high school Honors courses to be ready for AP Calculus as seniors.
Fact: As already mentioned before, the new high school core has eliminated significant content in comparison to the 2007 core. Even if compacted as suggested, the future seniors will face AP Calculus or Concurrent Enrollment with minimal or completely absent preparation in topics such as infinite series, parametric functions, functions in polar coordinate system, and trigonometric identities. In other words, they will be ill prepared. The promises that the lofty prose above make have little connection to reality, and the number of seniors successfully prepared to take college-level courses is bound to drop sharply.