Archive for the ‘anonymous’ Tag

Common Core Down: Crossing the Line   16 comments

Common Core Down: Crossing the Line
An Open Letter to Parent Advocates for Local Control

Guest Post –by someone who wishes to remain anonymous

The Common Core is going down.

It is going down one way or another. It will happen sooner in some places and later in others. In large part it is going to go down as a result of your efforts and the efforts of countless and nameless others like you. It will go down in spite of the efforts of the likes of Boeing, Microsoft, Exxon, Gates, the federal government and the rest of the human capital/workforce pipeline driven corporate entities, within and without our country (read that as global corporations). They have been messing with the education of students in our country for decades now. They have gone too far this time. They have crossed the line.

bird mom

Let me tell you about that line. If you are a birder or someone who enjoys nature you may have experience with this. On a number of occasions I have been out in the wild and spotted nests in trees and cliff aeries of owls, falcons, and hawks when there have been young ones in the nest. It usually was the cries of the young ones in the nest that attracted my attention. The momma bird has a protective eagle eye (pun intended). I have approached and found the line. The line was never visible. I knew I found the line when I stepped too close and the momma bird took flight and started to attack me. One step back and momma bird, while still on guard, would cease her attack. That is how you know where the line is—-when momma starts to attack out of a maternal instinct to protect her offspring.

This line occurs elsewhere in nature and not just with birds of prey. You do not want to get between a momma bear and her cub or between a cow moose and her calf (I have watched the nostrils flare and the ears lay back on a cow moose). If you do, you are in danger. And I never want to get so far across the line with a bird of prey or any other living creature that I can’t rapidly, within one step, retreat across the unseen line.

Well, they, with the CCSS and related issues, have crossed the line. As a result the CCSS is in serious danger. The CCSS and related issues have been placed smack between parents and their children and as a result are or will be seen as an imminent threat. And parents, in particular, moms, are on the attack as maternal instincts kick in to protect their offspring from accurately perceived physical, emotional, and/or intellectual harm.

The common core could and should go down for any number of reasons—federal overreach, constitutional issues, content, cost, privacy… but it really is going to go down because it has crossed the invisible line that will invoke the protective parental nature. That is what will bring it down. All of you have been instrumental in helping, and must continue to help, parents see where that line is.

I have been tracking issues related to CCSS since spring of 2009. It was a rare article that could be found at that time about it and it was usually one glowing with what we now see as the standard boiler plate blather. As time progressed it was a busy day if there were three to five articles about the CCSS. Of course, they were all positive about the CCSS or promoting the CCSS. That continued for some time. At some point a rare article would appear that was negative towards the CCSS. Over time that grew—-now I see what appears to be as many anti=CCSS articles as pro-CCSS. Even after filtering out many articles, it is common to see 10 to 30+ new articles a day. A significant portion of those articles is about the push back against the CCSS or they are anti-CCSS. With the increase in articles it is hard to find the time to read them all. It is easy to see that the CCSS is in trouble. The CCSS is not just in trouble it is in serious trouble. At this point only a small portion of parents have realized the line has been crossed. More will realize it soon enough.

Don’t let up. Keep the pressure on and help others learn to see the line and what it means to them and the future of their children. Keep up the good work!


Thank you, anonymous friend, for this guest post.


Utah State Office of Education at Uintah School District: On Common Core Testing   4 comments

Guest post by a parent who requested that his/her report would be anonymously published

I attended the meeting held by Uintah School District last week.

The meeting appeared to be a training on the new assessments for Common Core that will cost $30 million. The guy turned his back on the room and spoke quietly when he said ‘$30 mil’, so I’m not sure I heard him correctly. He was more than happy to face the room and speak loudly about how great these assessments will be and how very much we need them–in his opinion. (Note-his job is dependent on him holding to that opinion.)

A little more than halfway through the meeting, he finally allowed questions. He would NOT allow questions before that. When question time came, it was very clear that the majority of the people in the room were unhappy parents, not educators there for his training. With a great deal of pressure from parents, it was decided that some common core questions would be answered by Dixie Allen of the state school board.

All individuals interested in common core questions being answered were invited to get up and move to a smaller room to talk with Dixie. By the time everyone had gathered in the smaller room, common core was on a screen at the front of the room and Dixie was prepared to give a presentation. Parents tried to ask questions and Dixie tried to give a presentation.

When it became clear that Dixie’s intent was to deliver a Common Core ‘sale’, one parent specifically requested that questions be answered first and the presentation be given second because people were obviously wanting their questions answered now. Dixie said no, but eventually had to give in because the questions wouldn’t quit coming. We didn’t have to watch or listen to a big presentation from Dixie, but we did have to listen to her state several times that common core standards are higher (to which one parent consistently replied ‘no, they’re not’ every time). She also told the parent in the room who knew the most about Common Core that she (Dixie) didn’t want that mom asking anymore questions because the mom gave comments, informing other parents of the details so Dixie could not shut them down completely. Obviously, Dixie is frightened of the truth getting out.

Dixie also denied being the homeschool teacher for 2 of her grandchildren in her home. (I think the count was 2.) She later backtracked on that one and admitted that she teaches one grandchild who is in 9th grade right now and homeschooled because of bullying. (A difficult to fully believe claim because the junior high principal here is quite strict and everyone else says this principal put an end to bullying in that school when she was first put in as principal, long enough ago that bullying in that school would have ended by the time Dixie’s grandchild would have entered the jr. high.)

Dixie also repeatedly stated that Utah must do Common Core because otherwise we cannot buy curriculum to match our core because we don’t spend enough money on education and therefore the curricula vendors don’t cater to us. No one in the room agreed with her on needing more money, but she made this claim repeatedly. Then when the question “How much will these new curricula materials to match common core cost us?” was asked, the answer was “Nothing, we’re making our own.”

None of the parents in the room said anything, but note that the argument that we need to do common core so we can buy materials to match our core falls when you consider that we’re not buying the materials!
In short, no one in the meeting was convinced that common core was a good idea. Parents talked afterwards, exchanging their contact info and more information on common core. One parent had watched a program on the miserable failure of common core in Michigan and was there with her notes in hand, asking questions and providing details of how bad things are in Michigan. Dixie tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to refute the points this good mom made throughout the meeting. Another mom mentioned that history has proven how very dangerous a national curriculum can be, but many people in the room are unaware of that and just thought she’s a little paranoid.

I left the meeting thinking that Dixie is either completely ignorant of the facts surrounding common core or she is an outright liar. I spoke with some people who know her personally the next day and they told me that she just truly believes in big government, so she wouldn’t even be able to see the facts. It was interesting to watch her at the meeting. Dixie is an elected representative of the people, but you couldn’t tell. Elected representatives should listen to the people, treat them respectfully, and do as the people want. Dixie did none of that. As an elected representative of the people, she ARGUED with them and spoke condescendingly when they didn’t understand education lingo. It was very sad.
Dixie did state that Utah might not adopt the science part of common core because of pressure from the ‘right wing’ in the state. She also said that Utah might try to vary from common core by more than the 15% allowed, but there will be no attempt to get out of common core.
Sadly, the powers that be cannot admit they’ve made a mistake and are completely disrespectful to the people who gave them power and pay the taxes that support them and their decisions.

– Anonymous attendee at UT State Office of Education Common Core presentation to Uintah School District

Mysterious Academic Blog Brings Up Powerful Points   Leave a comment

Who is this mysterious someone who’s spending so much time and energy analyzing Common Core’s math –anonymously?  It’s got to be a professional, an academic.  It must be someone who cannot come out and say “The Emperor is wearing no clothes” without losing his/her career standing.  I am sure it’s an educator.

The passion with which he/she is attempting to enlighten Americans about the absurdity of Common Core math, added to the fact that he/she is remaining anonymous, feeds into  Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann’s “Spiral of Silence” theory that I was talking about earlier this week.

But anyway, I wanted to share the anonymous analysts’ analysis.  Enjoy:

Full text here:

CCSSI Mathematics

An independent look at the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics


Dodgy beginnings

In legal argument, every assertion cites authority: when lawyers know they are losing, they attempt to cloak weak arguments in language such as “it is clear that’’, glossing over the insufficient basis for why; strong assertions cite controlling authority, such as a prior ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The same citation requirements hold true for judicial opinions.  The American common law system is grounded in its constitutions and legislation, but also on the principle of stare decisis, which means a strong legal opinion will cite another, preferably higher, controlling authority for coming down on one side or another.  In the absence of binding authority, non-binding or persuasive authority is relied on: someone made an argument that won a case in another jurisdiction, the judge cites that decision and the law expands to a new jurisdiction.
Opponents of such decisions with weak legal precedent may deride them as “judicial activism’’, but judge-made law is a fundamental component of how our system works, and indeed, how the legal system has managed to survive.  Of course, a judge may instead reject another non-controlling decision and cite an alternative argument for ruling differently.  Thus, competing legal doctrines scatter like leaves in the wind until a higher court decides to consolidate and resolve contradictory rulings.  It is often possible (and enlightening) to trace a winning argument in a high court ruling down through various lower court decisions and ultimately arrive at the original language source, which can be the unprecedented argument of a jurist publishing research (and personal opinions) in some obscure law journal.
Thus judge-made law, sometimes with questionable origins, becomes the law of the land and not always for the better. Toward the other end of the infallibility spectrum lies the scientific method, where studies confirm or refute hypotheses, and objectivity, transparency and replicability are the hallmarks of reliability. CCSSI boasts of its firm foundations: “the development of these Standards began with research-based learning progressions detailing what is known today about how students’ mathematical knowledge, skill, and understanding develop over time.’’ (p.4) When we first started this blog, we naïvely thought CCSSI’s language original; now we are discovering, in fact, that almost none of it is.  As we analyze each of Common Core’s standards, we repeatedly ask ourselves: what is the underlying basis for the choices that have been made and where does the language come from? We’re certainly not the first to raise these questions.
Stanford University Professor R. James Milgram, who sat on the Validation Committee, expressed concern with a long list of CCSSI’s standards, writing that “[t]here are a number of standards…that are completely unique to this document’’ and “there is no research base for including any of these standards’’. Ideally, we would know from where and based on which research on its efficacy, each phrase, each standard arises, so that we could corroborate or attack the source. We are bracing for the worst: what if, in fact, the education pundits have issued mandates for math pedagogy based on dodgy research?  We already suspect what we will ultimately find: the “studies’’ are actually individuals’ Ed.D. theses based on broad cognition hypotheses and corresponding latitudinal studies of limited numbers of children.
A central difficulty in our investigation is that, unlike in jurisprudence, original sources are not cited individually for each standard and prove difficult to trace, and it is becoming apparent that pieces from widely disparate sources were lumped together to form what is now called Common Core. This is the snarl we at are trying to untangle. CCSSI instead lists a “Sample of Works Consulted’’.  When we started reading the end-referenced journal articles and other research, we were able to find some of the language and sample problems that provided the source material for CCSSI, but those too lacked specific footnoting, and also listed references at the end, apparently the accepted technique in such publications.  Frankly, we are appalled with such weak referencing.  Reading end-references sometimes led us to earlier iterations of the same language, which led to more references, ad infinitum. What we found in common, though, in every reference, was a plethora of vague, unsubstantiated language, mostly based on vague, unpublished educational research.
For once, we’d like to see the raw data of the actual research. One standard we have previously singled out for criticism is K.OA.3: “Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).’’ and its corresponding example in Table 1: “Grandma has five flowers. How many can she put in her red vase and how many in her blue vase?’’ On our blog, we have rudimentary tools to analyze the searches that bring traffic to the site.  Subsequent to the publication of that blog post, far and above the most common search sending us traffic is this standard, which we interpret to mean that kindergarten teachers are both trying to make sense of it and wondering how to implement it.
Readers of our blog know we don’t advocate posing a problem just because you can. Educators smugly confound students with some challenge and find self-satisfaction that at the end of the day, students can now solve it, but to what end?  Perhaps in the linear progression underlying Piagetian cognitive development, any problem will suffice because you can see where you start and where you need to go, and you can easily ascertain (through the ubiquitous test, say) which students have crossed the threshold of competence, but true mathematics learning is not linear. How do we know that linear thinking pervades current notions of mathematics learning progressions?
Because educational circles give plenty of recognition to those authors. An influential pair of reports from the National Academy of Sciences, the 2000 “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition’’ followed by the 2005 “How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom’’, claim to know “how the principles and findings on learning can be used to guide the teaching of a set of topics that commonly appear in the K-12 curriculum’’, specifically in our case, mathematics. One section of How Students Learn, written by Sharon Griffin, an associate professor of education and an adjunct associate professor of psychology at Clark University, begins:

After 15 years of inquiry into children’s understanding and learning of whole numbers, I can sum up what I have learned very simply. To teach math, you need to know three things. You need to know where you are now… You need to know where you want to go (in terms of the knowledge you want all children in your classroom to acquire during the school year). Finally, you need to know what is the best way to get there…

Were it so simple.

It is the pervasiveness of one-dimensional thinking of this sort that holds important “developmental milestones’’ that impedes effective mathematics curriculum reform. Now, this language may seem to mirror what we have been stating in this blog (see our blog post Concept of Area, Part 3, where we advocate “a well thought-out sequence that understands where things belong, understands where you are coming from and where you are going, and poses the right problems to foster the real thinking processes that we so strongly believe are the hallmarks of an effective education’’), but for several important differences.  One, we are looking at math education from a 12+ year cycle, not one year.  We want to instill not-easily-compartmentalized skills at an early age that will already be familiar, if not firmly established, and retrievable when the math becomes truly difficult.  Griffin highlights a common fallacy of American math education, that a teacher only needs to know what is going on in the classroom that year.
How is the elementary classroom teacher with minimal mathematical skills going to handle the student that gains an insight that is years ahead of the rest of the classroom?  Second, mathematics is not just about “acquiring knowledge’’; math at many levels is not necessarily as clean as one right answer, and those tensions can and should be introduced at a very early age.  Everyone can be trained to go from point A to point B and a test can quickly check that, but the deeper understanding that comes with facing a dilemma cannot necessarily be measured. Seeing that math is not always black and white is an ability that education pundits themselves frequently lack; they don’t really understand the deeper mathematical connections and have no long term vision of an effective mathematics education. Returning to K.OA.3, a trainable, but rote task of questionable learning value, CCSSI actually points us to its origins, another NAS report, “Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity’’ (National Research Council, 2009). Here is the source language, as it appears in the Mathematics Learning report:

In take apart situations, a total amount, C, is known and the problem is to find the ways to break the amount into two parts (which do not have to be equal). Take apart situations are most naturally formulated with an equation of the form   C = A + B   in which C is known and all the possible combinations of A and B that make the equation true are to be found. There are usually many different As and Bs that make the equation true.

And the grandma’s vase problem?

Put Together/Take Apart Situations
In these situations, the action is often conceptual instead of physical and may involve a collective term like “animal”: “Jimmy has one horse and two dogs. How many animals does he have?”
In put together situations, two quantities are put together to make a third quantity: “Two red apples and one green apple were on the table. How many apples are on the table?”
In take apart situations, a total quantity is taken apart to make two quantities: “Grandma has three flowers. How many can she put in her red vase and how many in her blue vase?”
These situations are decomposing/composing number situations in which children shift from thinking of the total to thinking of the addends. Working with different numbers helps them learn number triads related by this total-addend-addend relationship, which they can use when adding and subtracting. Eventually with much experience, children move to thinking of embedded number situations in which one considers the total and the two addends (partners) that are “hiding inside” the total simultaneously instead of needing to shift back and forth.
Equations with the total alone on the left describe take apart situations: 3 = 2 + 1. Such equations help children understand that the = sign does not always mean makes or results in but can also mean is the same number as. This helps with algebra later.

Even in these short excerpts from the report, several absurd generalizations pop out:

“…children move to thinking of embedded number situations in which one considers the total and the two addends (partners) that are “hiding inside” the total simultaneously instead of needing to shift back and forth.’’ They do?  We certainly never thought about numbers this way. “This helps with algebra later.’’ It does? We’d like to see these hypotheses tested in a controlled longitudinal study. Although the report committee lists more than a dozen members, the lead authors were Doug Clements of SUNY Buffalo, Karen Fuson of Northwestern University and Sybilla Beckman of the University of Georgia.
  These three authors also figure prominently in several of the other CCSSI source publications.  Professor Clements’ educational background tops out with a Ph.D. in Elementary Education from SUNY Buffalo, Karen Fuson is professor emeritus of Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, and while Sybilla Beckman of the University of Georgia is the only math Ph.D. of the lot, her research area stands out on UGA’s web site as “mathematics education’’, rather than a substantive area of theoretical or applied math. Individual emails to each of the three authors were unreturned.  We don’t feel singled out for neglect, though.
  Even Milgram “repeatedly asked for references justifying the insertions of these or similar standards…but references have not been provided.’’ This particular sections we cited, the entire report, and education reports in general illustrate a pervasive problem in education research: unfounded statements and the lack of scientific method.  Such baseless statements appear all throughout these so-called education studies, then they are often taken for gospel because of the authors’ perceived expertise.  Research methods that reach conclusions about what goes on in children’s minds based on observations of watching children at work would be laughed out of the scientific community; it’s inferences based on anecdotal evidence. Nonetheless, baseless conclusions form the justification for including “decomposition of numbers’’ in CCSSI’s kindergarten standards.
Not that none of Common Core’s references lack any substance.  “Informing Grades 1–6 Mathematics Standards Development: What Can Be Learned From High-Performing Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore?’’, a study prepared by the American Institutes for Research, with the headlining author of Alan Ginsburg, long time and now retired Director of Policy and Program Studies for the U.S. Dept. of Education, the same Ginsburg referred to in CCSSI’s introduction, highlights “four key features’’ of the composite standards of “high-performing Asian countries’’.  We refer the reader to the original text rather than try to summarize them here.  We certainly agree with the sentiment against believing that “that merely replicating these composite standards is sufficient’’, but what we cannot find, though, is the adaptation to CCSSI’s goals of any of the composite features.  Instead, we find the inclusion of standards with questionable beginnings. That puts CCSSI (and American mathematics education reform efforts) into the realm of wishful thinking, rather than basing itself on either hard data or emulating a proven success.
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