Blame the Textbooks for Poor Common Core Implementation!

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Gates funds the standards, funds reviews of the standards, and now funds reviews of the textbooks.
Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

EdReports.org reviewed five high Common Core-aligned math textbooks in their first round of reviews and found only one textbook was “aligned.”

  • College Board – nope.
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – nope.
  • Pearson – nope.
  • Carnegie Learning – partial credit for “focus and rigor,” but nope.
  • The CPM Learning Program was the only textbook deemed “Common Core-aligned”

Pearson wasn’t happy with the review because obviously this isn’t good for the bottom line.

They wrote:

Our analysis of the EdReports evaluations of Pearson Integrated High School Mathematics Common Core ©2014 shows that the EdReports evaluations continue to be plagued by inaccuracies, misunderstandings of program instructional models, misinterpretations of the both the intent and the expectation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the Publisher’s Criteria, and a lack of understanding of effective curriculum development and pedagogy. Pearson Education and its authors consider the EdReports evaluation an incomplete, invalid, and unreliable reporting of the quality of the program and of its alignment to the expectations of the CCSS-M.

This group recently said all of the K-8 math textbooks reviewed were not “Common Core-aligned.”

Look here is all you need to know about EdReports.org. They received just shy of $1.5 million in 2015 from the Gates Foundation (by way of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.) for operating support “to enable them to build their core priorities of publishing reviews of instructional materials, and to grow their operations and capacity to include teacher feedback of such materials.”

See if all the textbooks are bad then they can blame the poor implementation of Common Core on the textbooks, not the standards themselves.  They have already started that narrative. See teachers just need better resources, not new standards… Nothing to see here folks, just ignore the clear conflict of interest.

AZMerit’s Stagnant Scores

arizona-state-flag

The Arizona Republic reported that Arizona students did not see much improvement in their AZMerit assessment scores from the 2014-2015 school year. AZMerit is the Common Core-aligned assessment that the state of Arizona has used for the last two school years.

They write:

Most grade levels improved their statewide reading and math passing percentages by single digits — and the overall positive trajectory shows Arizona did well to raise its bar, educators said.

But the second year of AzMerit scores, which were released Monday by the Arizona Department of Education, also brought more of the same as the 2014-15 school year.

More than 60 percent of the state’s students failed the math and reading portions of AzMERIT in 2015-16. In the inaugural year, nearly two-thirds of Arizona pupils failed the test.

In math, six out of the nine grade levels tested had most of their students score “minimally proficient.” In English language arts, eight out of nine grades mostly scored at the test’s lowest performance level.

AzMERIT scores are divided into four performance levels: minimally proficient, partially proficient, proficient and highly proficient. The latter two categories are considered passing. The test is given to students in grades 3-11.

Arizonans Against Common Core founder and parent activist Jennifer Reynolds said in a statement to supporters:

The Arizona Department of Education released the preliminary results from the 2016 AzMERIT exam as compared to the 2015 results. As you can see below there is no stark improvement in test scores and this is no surprise! This test has never been validated nor field tested that it will assess the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS), and is in fact Utah’s Common Core Assessment or the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) test that we bought from them in December of 2014! Opt out Arizona, this is our natural right to do so on an invalid test!

Below is a comparison of the scores:

Screenshot 2016-06-29 22.54.02

Common Core State Standards and Exit Exams

Students in Computer Lab --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I had a story from The74.org from earlier this month bookmarked, but haven’t had time to address it. The story is entitled “The Exit Exam Paradox: Did States Raise the Standards So High They Had to Lower the Bar to Graduate?”

Let me answer that question… No.

Here’s an excerpt of a story that is based on a false premise – states raised standards.

Implementation of the Common Core has run headlong into high school exit exams, which many states require students to pass in order to graduate. But now states that have adopted the Common Core are grappling with whether raising academic standards should also mean making it harder to graduate.

To supporters, tough graduation requirements are necessary to encourage student effort and ensure a diploma “means something.” Some have even pushed for requiring students to demonstrate “college and career readiness” in order to graduate.

But decades of research now show that exit exams have not really raised standards, and have actually harmed disadvantaged students.

Now, as states reassess the pairing of graduation tests and Common Core, some are scaling back on the use of tough tests as a requirement for a high school diploma — perhaps an unintended, but welcome result of the the Common Core….

….The enterprise has been complicated by the introduction of the Common Core standards, and the tests connected to them. In most states, far fewer students were rated “proficient” on the Common Core–aligned tests than on the old assessments, which was by design — the standards were raised to better indicate “college and career readiness.” New York for example saw less than a third of students meet the new proficiency bar, down from around half.

But if states enforced similarly stringent requirements for exit exams, graduation rates — now over 80 percent nationally — would plummet and political outrage would ensue. Some even predicted that the high school dropout rate might double.

Can we dispense with the talk that Common Core actually raised standards? It didn’t. What it did do is throw classrooms in disarray. It frustrated kids with age-inappropriate standards. It frustrated elementary school teachers with the way it wanted them to teach math. It left those who actually practice in STEM fields scratching their heads because of the way math is taught. It doesn’t even prepare students for STEM programs in college.

To top it off student NAEP scores dropped since Common Core’s implementation and the assessment is not aligned to Common Core.  What Common Core has done is made a hot mess out of our education system. Is it any wonder that test scores are dropping with assessments that haven’t even been validated?

SETRA Could Still Push Past The Finish Line

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week writes that SETRA (Strengthening Education Through Research Act) is lagging, but not quite dead in Congress.

Several months ago, this piece of legislation looked like it had decent momentum in Congress. But it has hit the skids. Why? There are concerns among student data-privacy advocates about SETRA’s relationship to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. FERPA should be dealt with first, these advocates say, before Congress turns to SETRA, which mentions FERPA in the proposed bill language.

Still, there might be enough residual momentum left over and interest from various parties to push SETRA over the finish line, or at least further along in Congress.

Here is a reminder why we hate this bill. Be sure to contact your Representative and Senators to make sure SETRA, the Strengthening Education Through Research Act, S.227 is dead, dead, dead.

Activists Challenge Plan for NAEP to Assess Student “Mindsets”

privacyThe National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) that governs the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has announced it will expand beyond assessing students’ academic content knowledge to also include subjective, non-cognitive, socioemotional parameters. Such factors will include “grit,” “desire for learning,” and “school climate.” Assessing “mindsets” of students potentially will allow the government to determine and possibly reshape children’s moral and religious beliefs about controversial social issues.

American Principles Project, Eagle Forum and Education Liberty Watch along with five additional national organizations, as well as, 69 state organizations in 29 states have joined Liberty Counsel to object what they see as illegal changes to the NAEP. (Disclosure: This author is among those who have joined Liberty Counsel.)

As Liberty Counsel demonstrates in its letter to three congressional committees, if these factors are assessed as part of the NAEP test itself, their inclusion violates federal law prohibiting assessment of “personal or family beliefs and attitudes” via 20 USC section 9622. If they are instead part of the background survey given to students, their inclusion violates the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, 20 USC section 1232(h), which requires that such material be made available for parental inspection before administration.

Liberty Counsel attorney Richard Mast, author of the letter, wrote in part:

The NAEP is poised to violate federal law by collecting extremely sensitive psychological/socioemotional data on children; it will do so in a necessarily subjective manner;  it contains a substantial risk of exposing the subject children to possible negative consequences in their later schooling and employment careers, to the extent that even supporters of such assessments are concerned; and it will entrust extremely sensitive data to agencies that are no longer governed by serious privacy law and that have proven they cannot or will not keep personal student data secure.

These proposed changes constitute potential parental rights violations, and expose the children to a litany of harms in the present and in the future. Thus, any efforts to ask questions concerning mindsets and other socioemotional parameters and to collect that data via the NAEP should be halted immediately.

“We believe, along with Liberty Counsel and other signatories, that this expansion of NAEP will not only violate federal law but also possibly expose students to negative consequences of having their most sensitive personal information – subjectively determined – collected and maintained in unsecured government databases. Even without federal statutes prohibiting such action, this overreach would invade parental sovereignty over the education and moral direction of children,” Jane Robbins of American Principles Project said in a released statement.

“American Principles Project urges Congress to protect children by halting this illegal expansion of NAEP,” Robbins added.

“We are extremely pleased and thankful that Liberty Counsel and so many organizations around the country have joined this important national fight for student data and psychological privacy,” Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Education Liberty Watch and executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, said in a released statement. “Congress must do its due diligence and properly exercise its oversight authority to stop these obvious statutory and constitutional violations and this continued federal overreach before the privacy and futures of our students are further harmed. We urge our members to help educate their members of Congress about this issue and to be sure to opt their children out of this very invasive test.”

Elementary Teachers Struggle With Common Core Math

Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Brandon Grasley (CC-By-2.0)

As I was reading the Fordham Institute’s survey of K-8 math teachers over Common Core last week I wondered, “what K-4th grade math teachers?” That’s not to say some school districts don’t have specialists, but most elementary schools, especially early grades in elementary schools, are comprised mainly of generalists not specialists.

The elementary school “generalists” are having a problem with Common Core math according to an article in The Hechinger Report.

Depth of understanding was hailed by its architects as a cornerstone of the Common Core, a set of educational guidelines for what students need to know in each grade in English and math that have been adopted in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The problem is that most elementary school teachers did not learn math that way, and many now struggle to teach to the new standards.

An April 2016 study of a large urban school in Georgia reported the frustration of many elementary level teachers. Only two out of ten teachers there said they were very familiar with the standards and one out of four reported no training on how to teach to them. If the Common Core is to improve the math education of U.S. students as intended, experts agree that teachers who are meant to get students excited about math and become proficient in its basic concepts need more help and support. Yet the exact nature of that support and how to provide it are debated.

…“Elementary school teachers are generalists,” said John Ewing, president of Math for America, a non-profit that offers fellowships to teachers. “Their content knowledge is less than what a specialist would have so they don’t understand math in a broad way. Preparatory programs have to be more attentive and have a way to develop teacher expertise.”

So the onerous is on college elementary education programs to suddenly turn these teachers into specialists and learn math in a way they didn’t experience growing up.

This is the same reason parents struggle with Common Core math as well. The whole idea is completely asinine. For starters the math standards for elementary-aged students are not age-appropriate. Now they want teachers (and with some school districts – parents) to go back and learn all of these new methods when there was really nothing wrong with the way elementary school teachers and parents were taught.

We sent a man to the moon before Common Core, all of American innovation happened pre-Common Core. Now suddenly our kids need Common Core’s asinine approach to math in order to succeed?

The article also notes:

Susan Lee Swars, co-author of the April 2016 study of a Georgia urban school and a professor of math education at Georgia State University, said she was called in to provide professional development for the school and ran the study to see what kind of help the teachers would need. It was the school’s second year of Common Core instruction, and only 7 percent of the teachers surveyed strongly agreed that they were prepared to teach the standards and many voiced the sentiment that they needed to “unlearn” math and relearn it again. Other teachers spoke of encountering a lot of resistance in the classroom when they tried to modify math class to be more about the process than the solution.

Of course there is going to be rebellion when you focus more on the process than the solution. In real life the solution is what matters and using the fastest method to reach that solution. With all the talk of trying to prepare students for STEM they are using an approach that is the furthest from what is done on the job.

It’s ludicrous.

Then this:

“I used to be against specialists because in time of budget cuts, they’re the first to go,” Ewing said. “But if you want to teach Common Core properly, we’ll probably move to a country of specialists. I’ve come around on this.”

Yeah, let’s just totally restructure school faculty to make way for unproven standards, more nonsense!

Interesting Findings in Fordham’s Teacher Survey on Common Core Math

The Fordham Institute released a national teacher survey on Common Core math. They conducted an online survey of a representative sample of 1,003 K–8 public school math teachers from the forty-three states (as well as the District of Columbia) that had adopted and retained the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics as of March 2015.

There are some interesting findings that Fordham isn’t going to bring much attention to, but I thought was worth noting.

There is a drop in memorization of basic math formulas and times tables.

40% of teachers indicated they have fewer students memorizing basic math formulas and times tables. Only 9% said they had more.

55% of teachers say curriculum is well-aligned with Common Core.

This appears to contradict the narrative that the curriculum being offered to teachers isn’t well aligned to dispel criticism about how Common Core is taught. 42% said that it wasn’t, but I find it interesting a clear majority said that the curriculum is.

A majority of teachers are teaching multiple methods.

Common Core had made a significant impact on pedagogy. A total of 56% of teachers say they are teaching multiple methods. This includes 65% of K-2 teachers and 65% of 3-5 grade teachers.

They note that fewer teachers in grades 3-5 and middle school believe their students can do basic math formulas.

Consistent with the expectation in CCSS-M that students be fluent in the standard algorithm for each of the four basic operations, 32 percent of K–2 teachers say that they have more students who can “do simple calculations with speed and accuracy” now than before the CCSS-M (22 percent say fewer). This is reversed, however, in the other two grade bands, with larger numbers of teachers reporting that fewer students can complete simple calculations. The results for middle school teachers are particularly concerning, with just 13 percent reporting that more students can perform simple calculations and 39 percent reporting that fewer can. (Note that these middle school students started elementary school before the Common Core standards were adopted and implemented.)

They also note that students are increasingly stressed by math standards.

In general, teachers see the CCSS-M as a source of stress for students. For instance, 42 percent of teachers overall say that they have more students with “math anxiety” than before the CCSS-M were implemented, and 53 percent agree that “expectations are unrealistic.” In each of these cases, the higher the grade band, the more likely teachers are to report that students are encountering difficulties.

A majority of teachers believe that Common Core will have long-term benefits, but not an overwhelming majority.

There is a significant swatch of K-8 math teachers are who are not convinced.

Screenshot 2016-06-24 13.19.08

Bear in mind this is several years after adoption and implementation. If Common Core is as wonderful as Common Core advocates have claimed shouldn’t these numbers be higher?

Massachusetts Common Core Ballot Initiative Waiting Game

Supporters of the ballot initiative who seek to repeal Common Core in Massachusetts have to wait to see if their question will end up on the ballot in November. The group spearheading this effort, End Common Core Massachusetts, says they have enough signatures, but they are waiting on a judge to rule in a court challenge to the certification of the initiative question.

The Worcester Telegram reports:

A local group looking to scrap the Common Core learning standards in Massachusetts says it has gathered enough signatures to get its question on the state ballot this November.

End Common Core Massachusetts organizers now will have to wait to see if their efforts will even count, as the Supreme Judicial Court weighs a challenge to state Attorney General Maura Healey’s earlier certification of their ballot question.

“I believe we will weather the storm on this one,” said Worcester resident Donna Colorio, who is spearheading the ballot initiative to undo the state’s adoption of the national Common Core standards in 2010.

Ten Massachusetts residents have appealed to the courts to throw out the question, arguing it shouldn’t be eligible for the ballot because it seeks to repeal the actions of a government board, whereas state law requires initiative petitions to propose a new law or constitutional amendment.

After holding oral arguments last month, the court is expected to issue its decision early next month, around the same time when the state will start making up the ballots for the Nov. 8 election. If End Common Core gets a favorable ruling, Ms. Colorio, who is also a member of the Worcester School Committee, said her group has gathered more than 30,000 signatures, well more than the 10,792 it would need to get on the ballot.

Her statewide team of roughly 500 to 700 volunteers collected those names over the past six weeks, staking out grocery stores and other high traffic public places. Since last fall, when ballot question campaigns had to gather 64,750 certified signatures to get approval from the attorney general, Ms. Colorio said, End Common Core expanded its range in the state.

Read the rest.

Washington State GOP Supports Student Privacy, Opposes Common Core

washington-state-gop

The Washington State Republicans passed a student privacy resolution at their recent state convention last month in Pasco, WA.  They also passed language opposing Common Core into their state party platform. Opposition to Common Core has crossed party lines, and is truly a bipartisan issue in Washington State. Last year, you may recall, the Washington State Democratic Party passed a resolution opposing Common Core.

Here is the resolution language which was written by our own J.R. Wilson.

Student Privacy Resolution

Whereas, privacy rights of students and parents are not forfeited upon public or private school enrollment and attendance or providing home based instruction; 

Whereas, non-cognitive factors include, but are not limited to, such things as attitudes, beliefs, attributes, feelings, mindsets, social and emotional learning, metacognitive learning skills, motivation, grit, tenacity, perseverance, self-regulation, and social skills; 

Whereas, the collection and retention of personal and non-cognitive data about students and parents is contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution;

Whereas, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) intends to begin assessing non-cognitive factors which may be in violation of federal law;

Whereas, the proposed federal Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA S227) expands research and the collection of student level data to non-cognitive factors and social emotional learning and allows for sensitive data prohibited in surveys to be collected in curriculum and assessments;

Be it resolved that parents and eligible students shall be informed of the student level data that is collected and who will have access to it; 

Be it resolved that parents and eligible students shall be entitled to and guaranteed free access to any and all information collected about their child by a local school, the state of Washington or contracted entities with provisions for correcting inaccurate information; 

Be it resolved that local public or private schools or the state of Washington or other entities shall not collect and retain student level personal and non-cognitive data through surveys, curriculum, assessments, or any other means without informed prior written parental consent.

Below is the pertinent language in their platform supporting local control of education and opposing Common Core:

We support the elimination of the Federal Department of Education and returning its control and funding to the States. Teacher performance should be monitored and rewarded at the local level. We recognized the educational needs of students vary throughout the country, which cannot be met with a single mandate requiring one size to fit all. We support the elimination of Common Core standards.

Medical Doctor Explains Why Handwriting Is Still Essential

cursive

One of numerous complaints about the Common Core State Standards is how it eliminated learning cursive in the ELA standards. To be fair, this push has been well underway as we are in a “keyboard age.”

Perri Klaus, MD, objects to that however, and in an op/ed in The New York Times explains why handwriting is still essential even in a “keyboard age.”  Dr. Klaus writes:

And beyond the emotional connection adults may feel to the way we learned to write, there is a growing body of research on what the normally developing brain learns by forming letters on the page, in printed or manuscript format as well as in cursive.

In an article this year in The Journal of Learning Disabilities, researchers looked at how oral and written language related to attention and what are called “executive function” skills (like planning) in children in grades four through nine, both with and without learning disabilities.

Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington and the lead author on the study, told me that evidence from this and other studies suggests that “handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.”

….

“This myth that handwriting is just a motor skill is just plain wrong,” Dr. Berninger said. “We use motor parts of our brain, motor planning, motor control, but what’s very critical is a region of our brain where the visual and language come together, the fusiform gyrus, where visual stimuli actually become letters and written words.” You have to see letters in “the mind’s eye” in order to produce them on the page, she said. Brain imaging shows that the activation of this region is different in children who are having trouble with handwriting.

Read the whole piece, it’s a fascinating read.