Archive for the ‘no evidence’ Tag

Dana Layton’s Stop Common Core Bill For Utah   3 comments

Dana

Representative Dana Layton

I sent a an email letter to my representatives, asking them to vote yes on Represenative Dana Layton’s bill HB0342.

The bill would return local control to Utah’s educational system.   Utah needs this bill.  I hope every Utahn writes to his or her legislators and begs them to pass this bill.

For those who don’t know, Rep. Layton’s bill  “specifies procedures for the development and adoption of core curriculum standards  for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, including:   the establishment of a standards development committee consisting of parents,  teachers, and representatives of school districts, business, and higher education  to assist the board in developing standards; and public review and comment of draft core curriculum standards;   equires the State Board of Education to establish a standards review committee  consisting of 15 parents of Utah public education students to review proposed core  curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social   studies;   requires the State Board of Education to maintain control of, and the power to   modify, core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science,   and social studies; and  requires the State Board of Education, on or before July 1, 2016, to adopt revised  core curriculum standards for English language arts and mathematics that are developed  specifically for Utah.”

All day, I keep asking myself, why would the state school board NOT want this, not want a return to local control of education?

Anyway, I copied my letter (email number one, below) to legislators also to the school board.

Dixie Allen, my state school board representative, wrote back to me and to the same legislators, saying that what I had written was untrue. It’s not every day that I get called a liar, and I dislike it, for some reason.  I doubt the school board enjoys it, either.  So rather than rebut the lies, I simply wrote again, asking the legislators to fact-check for themselves.  The truth can stand up under close inspection.  Empty claims cannot.

Then Dave Thomas, another state school board member, sent the legislators and me the Utah State School Board’s  link to a wordy, undocumented, verbiose posting –which is without any footnotes, without links or proof of truthfulness –and he said it “explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence.”

Sigh.  I try to keep giving the board the benefit of the doubt; they were rushed into Common Core adoption; they wanted that Race to the Top grant application turned in so fast; they made trusting assumptions about what the quality of the standards would be once they actually had the opportunity to study them; they asumed the standards had been pilot tested; whatever.

But now, now in 2014, when it’s been made so clear and obvious that the standards are not what they claimed to be, now that it’s so clear and obvious that we’ve traded local control for a substandard mess of pottage– now can’t we just ‘fess up and agree that Utah made a big mistake, a mistake anyone in the shoes of the state board could have made and would likely have made– and just turn around now and walk away from the mistake?  Why hold on to this judgment error with such doggedness? It is not too late for us to change our course.  In fact, the longer we stay in Common Core, the more money we waste and the more entrenched our curriculums are becoming in this substandard and centrally controlled monster.

So, here are all those emails in case anyone is interested.

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EMAIL NUMBER ONE:  (It was very long so I am not copying the whole thing; it’s just the Common Core 101 research that I cut and pasted from the front page of my blog.)

From me to the legislators and school board:
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Please Pass HB 342.    This is why:
                 Common Core: 101
Thank you.
Christel Swasey
Heber City
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EMAIL NUMBER TWO:
From Dixie Allen of the state school board:
Good Morning,
Since many of you are my constituents or my respected representatives at the State Level, I feel like you need to understand that most of what Christel has alluded to is untrue.
First, the standards were written under the control and supervision of the nation’s Governor’s Association and the Chief State School Officers, by experts in the field, including our own experts from USOE and several of our college professors.
We did not receive any money for adopting the standards, but did save money because we did not need to go through the traditional method of upgrading our standards by bringing in experts in the field for days and weeks to help write and rewrite the upgraded standards for Math and English/Language Arts.
We continually at the State Office and State Board level, try to explain that we upgrade Standards in all areas of the curriculum about every 5 years.  We have been working on Social Studies for the past two years.  We have and will tweak and upgrade the Common Core Standards as we move forward.  We have already added back in Cursive Writing into the Language Arts Standards and have asked teachers not to use some recommended readings, as they do not seem to be suitable for the age of students we are addressing.  We will continue to upgrade and revise all our standards to insure they are the best standards for the expectations of our students as they move into college and careers.
I have often told my constituents that as a teacher and principal and curriculum director in the public schools for over 26 years, I see such great promise for especially the mathematics standards, as they make it possible for all students to become competent in the higher levels of mathematics, which before was a “stair step approach”, which many were not able to make it through in the 4 years of high school.  Now we introduce some of the advanced mathematics concepts in late elementary and middle school, thus providing the opportunity for all students to receive the proper amount of mathematics instruction to enter STEM Fields and almost any college or career program they wish to pursue.
The same advantage is true of the English/Language Arts curriculum as it helps students identify and understand complicated texts, written to explain history, mathematics, etc.  All of which is needed at the College and Career level.
Finally, if the legislature or any other group suggests or insists that we throw out the Common Core Curriculum, which has been in place for three plus years in our schools, it will cost millions of dollars to replicate standards that are as effective, and the school system will have to throw out years of work on creating curriculum and assessments to meet these standards.
Please allow the educators in the field, with help from USOE and our professors of higher learning work to upgrade these standards as we move forward, knowing that there has been and will always be invitations to parents and constituents to give input into any upgrades — as was the case with the Common Core.  At the State Board and Utah State Office of Education level, we are always frustrated that the invitation to become involved in reviewing standards or test items is overlooked or possibly not shared with all that wish to be involved — however, in the case of the Common Core, I believe that most of those speaking out against the Core are not talking about the Standards or the Curriculum, but the intrusion of the Federal Government.  I wish all could see that this set of standards was a coalition of Governors and State School Officers who knew we needed better standards and enough of our Nation using such standards to receive quality textbooks and computer programs to help teachers teach it in our schools.
I do hope that you will look at this issue realistically in relationship to insuring that our students can and will compete for quality higher education and careers, both within our state and throughout the nation and world.
Thank you for your service and continued support of our educational system!!
Sincerely,
Dixie Allen, Region 12
Chair, Standards and Assessment
Utah State Board of Education
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EMAIL NUMBER THREE
From me again:
Dixie,
It is time for the truth to stand up to fact-checking.  I have given documented links to all of my statements about Common Core, while you and the state school board continues to give none.
Let the legislators and the people do the fact-checking and look at documentation rather than words and claims.
Dixie, I am an honest and truthful reseacher and I will gladly alter anything if you can show me I have written anything false.  Will you do the same?
Christel
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EMAIL NUMBER FOUR:
From Dave Thomas of the state school board:

The State Board has had a website for a long time that explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence.  If you would like to read the State Board’s position it is at http://www.utahpublicschools.org/index.html.

David L. Thomas

Utah State Board of Education

1st Vice Chair

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EMAIL NUMBER FIVE:

From Dixie Allen again:

Christel,
As Dave Thomas suggests, we have done that!!
Dixie

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EMAIL NUMBER SIX:

From me:

Dixie, you have not.
Your claims are never linked to documentation.   And you don’t acknowledge ours.
The USOE’s claims about Common Core are wordy and empty.  Why not show me where Utah has a voice over amending the shared core?  Show me how a teacher can have a voice in what will be tested.  Show me where these experimental standards were tried in a classroom anywhere successfully prior to being foisted on all the states.  Show me proof that deleting classics will improve literacy!
This is a giant academic fraud no matter how many people say it’s improving standards.
It is false to rob students of classical literature to 70% by senior year.   It’s wrong to diminish the teaching of the personal narrative essay.
It is a crime to steal calculus and other higher level math from high school students.
It is absurd to make little children do the type of math they are being forced to do.
Almost weekly I get letters from people who are pulling their children out of math or all of public education.  They want to know what they can do.  I tell them to ask you.  Your board has destroyed good education in this state and we are angry and we are not about to back down until you make  it right.
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Utahns Discuss Common Core Math   10 comments

I’m going to share some email strings from Utah school board members who are pro-common core, and me, and two mathematicians who are opposed to common core on academic grounds.

Ze’ev Wurman: 2010 California Common Core math validation committee member and former Dept. of Education advisor; opposes Common Core.

James Milgram: Stanford and NASA mathematician; served on official common core validation committe and refused to sign off on the academic legitimacy of the Common Core.

Dr. Milgram wrote (responding to a request for clarification about math standards) in a very recent email:

  ““I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry.  Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course…  They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.


Tami Pyfer: Utah school board member, pro-common core


Dixie Allen: Utah school board member, pro-common core

Tami,
I am a little confused — From your email yesterday I thought you said that you, Brenda and others at USOE had decided we shouldn’t answer any questions from the Anti-Core patrons.  Could you please make sure we know what the expectation is for all of us as Board Members.  I had tried to answer anyone that was my constituents and some others, as I felt like it was my job as chair of Curriculum and Standards.  But we probably need to know what the expectation is in regard to these questionable emails, etc.
Thanks,
Dixie

On Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 9:49 AM, Tami Pyfer <tami.pyfer@usu.edu> wrote:

Christel – Here is the specific standard that requires students to know how to convert fractions to decimals. (Fractions are rational numbers, perhaps that’s how you missed it in your examination of the standards.) See (d) and also the sample assessment task at the very bottom which asks kids to convert 2/3 to a decimal using long division.

Board members – Feel free to forward this chart along to legislators, constituents, and others asking you about the incorrect claim that we are not going to be teaching kids to convert fractions to decimals. It’s taken from our Utah Core Math Standards documents. I’ve already sent it to everyone who has emailed me about it.

Hope this helps!

Tami

Dear Tami,
In seventh grade?
My ten year old fourth grader (home schooled) knows how to convert fractions to decimals and ratios.  Does the Utah Common Core recommend this skill be taught only at the level of seventh grade?  That seems not very “rigorous.”
However, I am happy that it is taught at all.  I am glad you found this for me. Thank you.
Please look at exhibit B which is on page 26 of this document, as you will see that in the math review of Common Core, by 2010 California Common Core validation committee member and math expert Ze’ev Wurman, Wurman states that Common Core fails to teach many key math skills along with the one we are discussing.  I would love to see your review of his complete review to see if these things are taught, and at what grade levels.
Perhaps Ze’ev was reviewing the non-integrated math portion of Common Core, which as I understand it, only Utah and Vermont have adopted.
Christel
Tami,
Minutes ago, I forwarded to James Milgram a copy of your email about Common Core math.  He served on the official common core validation committee, and would not sign off on the academic legitimacy of these standards.  Milgram was also a math professor at Stanford University and a NASA consultant.
Dr. Milgram wrote back:
“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry.  Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course…  They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.   – Jim Milgram 
Please, return our state to local control of eduation and to academically legitimate, empirically tested standards.
Christel
Dear Christel,
The 7th grade standard Tami refers to is, indeed, the only   Common Core standard that deals, at least partially, with  converting between representations of fractions:

7. NS. 2.d: Convert a rational number to a decimal using       long division; know that the decimal form of a rational number   terminates in 0s or eventually repeats.

It only obliquely deals with converting a regular fraction to      decimal, with a particular focus on the fact that rational      fractions repeat. It does not deal with conversion between      fractional forms (representations) per se. Further, it doesn’t      deal with conversion of decimals to rational fractions, it does      not deal with conversion between decimal fractions and percents      and vice versa, and it does not deal with conversion of rational      fractions to percent and back. In other words, it deals with only      one out of 6 possible conversions. It also does it — as you      correctly say — too late, and only obliquely at that.
Compare it to the careful work the NCTM Curriculum        Focal Points did on this important issue:

Grade 4: Developing an understanding of          decimals, including the connections between fractions and          decimals Grade 6: Developing an understanding of and fluency          with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals                          … They use the relationship between decimals        and fractions, as well as the relationship between finite        decimals and whole numbers (i.e., a finite decimal multiplied by        an appropriate power of 10 is a whole number), to understand and        explain the procedures for multiplying and dividing decimals. Grade 7: In grade 4, students used equivalent fractions        to determine the decimal representations of fractions that they        could represent with terminating decimals. Students now use        division to express any fraction as a decimal, including        fractions that they must represent with infinite decimals. They        find this method useful when working with proportions,        especially those involving percents

(Curriculum Focal Points are available      from NCTM for a fee, however you can get them for free here)
Here is what the National Research Council had to say      about this issue in it’s Adding It Up influential book:

“Perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to        grade 8 mathematics concerns the translation between fractional        and decimal representations of rational numbers.” (p. 101, Box        3-9)
“An important part of learning about rational numbers is        developing a clear sense of what they are. Children need to        learn that rational numbers are numbers in the same way that        whole numbers are numbers. For children to use rational numbers        to solve problems, they need to learn that the same rational        number may be represented in different ways, as a fraction, a        decimal, or a percent. Fraction concepts and representations        need to be related to those of division, measurement, and ratio.        Decimal and fractional representations need to be            connected and understood. Building these connections takes            extensive experience with rational numbers over a            substantial period of time.” (p. 415, emphasis        added)

(Adding It Up is here.      If you register you can download the book rather than read it      online)
And here is what the National Math Advisory Panel said on      this issue in its final report:

Table 2: Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations        (p. 20)          … Fluency With Fractions         1) By the end of Grade 4, students should be able to identify        and represent fractions and decimals, and compare them on a        number line or with other common representations of fractions        and decimals.         2) By the end of Grade 5, students should be proficient with        comparing fractions and decimals and common percent, and with        the addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals.

The NMAP final report can be found here.
All these important and widely acclaimed documents (by both sides)      are quite clear that conversion between fractional representation      is a critical component of mathematical fluency in K-8, that it      takes time to develop, and that developing it  should seriously      start by grade 4.

Arguing that a single grade 7 standard, which  only tangentially and partially addresses this critical fluency,  is sufficient as “coverage” is disingenuous, to put it mildly.
-Ze’ev Wurman

Thanks, Dixie.

Still wondering about a few basic questions that Judy Park says she will not answer. These are simple! Who will answer them?

1.Where’s the evidence that the standards are legitimized by empirical study– that they have helped, not hurt, kids who’ve been the guinea pigs on Common Core?
2.Where’s the study showing that lessening classic literature helps students?
3.Where’s the study showing that not teaching kids how to convert fractions to decimals helps students?
4.Upon what academic studies are we basing the claims that the common core standards are academically legitimate?
5.What parent or teacher in his/her right mind would approve giving away local control to have standards written in D.C. by the NGA/CCSSO?

–Am I being unreasonable here, or is Judy Park? These are our children. These are our tax dollars. Is it too much to ask to see a legitimate foundation for altering the standards so dramatically?

Christel,

I can’t answer any of your questions with research data — because I don’t have such data — but I can answer your questions as a teacher and administrator in the Public Education System for 26 years and a mother of 4 and a grandmother of 11 (some of which have been in public school and some in private school and some in home school) and a State School Board Member of 11 years.

1. There is no empirical study of the Common Core Standards — rather they have been vetted by college professors in our state and others, specialists at our State Office of Education and others throughout the nation, other specialists outside the educational community, and patrons, parents and teachers around our state who had a voice in the approval of the Core Standards and their recommendations before they were completely adopted by our State Board of Education some 2 1/2 years ago.

2. There is no study that shows we should lessen the study of classic literature, but there are endless recommendations from universities and the job creators of our nation that our students need to learn to read informational text, as well as classic literature. So my hope is that our students are getting a mix of both, but believe that we need to insure that students can read informational text and understand what it says.

3. There is no study that says that converting decimals to fractions and visa versa isn’t an important part of mathematical study. However, there is a great understanding in the educational field that if we don’t start teaching algebraic and geometric understanding early in public education and expect all students to understand these mathematical facts, as well as fractions and decimals, that we will have students who cannot make it through the mathematical courses necessary to graduate from high school and be ready to go to college. As a high school principal, I had 300 students move into Uintah High from 9th grade that had to take remedial mathematics classes, because they had not passed Pre-algebra. All students need to understand basic algebra and geometric calculations.

4. We have based our faith in the Core Standards, based upon the specialists that created them and support their validity in the educational programs for students. I believe after a couple of years of getting these standards to students, that we are seeing improvement in a deeper set of abilities to process information both in mathematics and English/Language Arts. (Of course my proof are my own grandchildren and what teachers share with me.)

5. Local Teachers and parents don’t know everything about what is quality education — and we did not give away the standards to the federal government or Washington, D.C. — we asked experts in the field, at both the national and states levels of instruction to help develop standards that would help all students be Career and College Ready. The world has changed since we were educated and our students need to know different skills to succeed in the new world of technology and world wide companies.

I am so sorry that you feel so strongly about this issue that you have created such turmoil in our state. We are truly trying to do what is best for our students and if you can pinpoint any Core Standard that you feel is problematic or doesn’t help our students be prepared for college or work, please let me know and I will take it to the experts to see what they think and if they agree we will change the standard.

However, I do not plan to throw out the Common Core, as long as I am a State School Board member, because I believe it is a step in the right direction. I will, however, help correct and update any Standard that we feel needs to be revised.

Dixie

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