New Texas Math Standards Look Strangely Familiar


Texas just released new math standards and according to Sarah Garland of The Hechinger Report they look a lot like the Common Core Math Standards.

She writes:

The Texas standards aren’t the same as the Common Core State Standards, adopted by more than 40 states. It’s actually illegal to teach Common Core in Texas.

But even in a state that said an emphatic “No!” to Common Core, the new math standards here are pretty similar to the standards the state rejected, experts say. Across the Lone Star State, as in the rest of the nation, number lines are replacing pizzas in lessons about fractions and lectures are losing out to rambunctious lessons in which kids seem to run the show.

And more teachers here are overhauling math class so that it’s not just about getting answers right or wrong, it’s about the joy and challenge of hunting for a solution, whether or not students find it on the first try.

“Really that’s what I was going for. Not that they would get it. That if this is too heavy, I need to find something lighter,” Demore said later about the lesson. “The idea of looking, of inquiring, of trying. The idea of the journey. It may or may not lead to a right answer, but it will certainly lead to better thinking and reasoning. And that’s one of the things they need to get to.”

That idea reflects a consensus across the U.S., and is the reason math classes everywhere are starting to look more alike, even in schools untouched by the Common Core.

“There is a much greater research base about how children learn … mathematical functions than existed 20, 30 years ago,” said Mark Ellis, a professor of math education at California State University, Fullerton. “The overall picture of what mathematics looks like is converging on this idea that it’s not the teacher standing there for 30 minutes, then giving you 20 problems to replicate the algorithm.”

I haven’t taken time to compare the two sets of standards to determine how similar they really are. This news, however, doesn’t surprise me. First, fuzzy math and the like have existed before Common Core and it will exist after Common Core.  What is deemed a fresh, new trend is just an older idea rebranded.

Second, when Texas applied for a No Child Left Behind waiver they claimed that their standards were aligned with Common Core. From their request submitted on September 26, 2013 (prior to the new math standards).

The comparison, conducted by the Educational Policy Improvement Center and involving teams of higher education and public school educators and content educators, found that the Texas standards are more comprehensive than the Common Core standards, including additional areas of college readiness that are missing from the national standards. Overall, Texas standards in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics matched 92% and 75% of those in Common Core Standards, respectively.

If the math standards in TEKS were 75% aligned prior to the new standards it’s not surprising the new math standards would be even more aligned.

Texas is similar to Virginia whose standards are also closely aligned to the Common Core, at least neither state followed Alaska’s lead who initially rejected Common Core and then practically plagiarized it when they released their new standards.

Virginia’s Math Standards Align to Common Core by 95%

Virginia-FlagThe News Leader reports that Virginia’s math standards align to the Common Core by 95% and Virginia parents are frustrated.

You may remember that Virginia pulled out of the Common Core State Standards when former Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) was elected.  I noted in my essay in the book Common Ground on Common Core, Virginia in its approved No Child Left Behind flexibility waiver request noted its involvement with the American Diploma Project (the precursor of Common Core).  They also included an alignment study of its standards indicating strong parallels to the Common Core.  McDonnell even held conversations with U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan regarding his state’s standards.

So this really shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it is no wonder Virginia parents are frustrated.

The stunning admission in this news is that students in Virginia (and other states that adopt Common Core) don’t learn traditional algorithms until middle school.

The News Leader reports:

So students spend elementary school exploring math, coming up with their own methods of solving problems, which are generally more word-based than just straight problems on a worksheet. And in middle school they learn the prescribed algorithm that is the “traditional” way of solving the problem.

Yeah, that will prepare them for STEM.  Oh brother.

Will a Republican Congress End NCLB Waivers and Race to the Top?

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

It seems as though No Child Left Behind may be addressed when the new Republican-led Congress gavels in this January.  The Associated Press reports that Republicans are focusing on the law that was up for renewal in 2007.  Since Congress never acted President Obama’s administration went ahead and took action in the form of NCLB flexibility waivers that are unconstitutional.  In order to receive a waiver states had to adopt teacher evaluation systems and “college-and-career ready standars” (Common Core).  So states agreed to more strings in return for “flexibility.”

Kimberly Hefling, an education reporter with AP, writes:

The waivers left alone a federal requirement of annual standardized testing in grades three to eight and testing once in high school. The testing provisions are likely to be part of the debate.

Alexander, a pragmatic lawmaker, is no stranger to education policy. He served as education secretary under George H.W. Bush, as president of the University of Tennessee and as Tennessee governor.

He says that “excessive regulation of local schools by Washington is getting in the way of better schools.” He and House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., say the federal government needs to get out of the business of deciding what to do about low-performing schools, education standards and teacher evaluations.

But, Alexander has also acknowledged the political reality even if Congress passes a bill, Obama would need to sign it to become law.

“We’ll work with Secretary Duncan and the president in hopes we can persuade them that what we want to do is also what they want to do,” Alexander said, referring to Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan.

Congress could, at the very least, stop funding for Race to the Top.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg however.  I’m leery of what Senator Alexander will actually allow however since he was unwilling to discuss Common Core when he faced a stiff primary challenge.  He has supported Common Core in the past.

Then again, Common Core advocates seem to think that ending Race to the Top and NCLB waivers will end conservative concerns.  No, only for the uninformed.  It just means those who oppose Common Core (not just conservatives) will focus solely on state-level battles where the fight has mainly been to begin with.

Oklahoma Loses NCLB Waiver Over Common Core, Indiana Rebrand Rewarded


Arne Duncan brings out the sticks and carrots.

Politico reported yesterday that Oklahoma lost its ESEA (NCLB) flexibility waiver as a result of repealing Common Core.  Indiana, however, received a one-year extension.

Both state repealed Common Core, but Indiana replaced theirs with a rebrand.  Oklahoma will be writing new standards and their process will be slower and more deliberate than the Hoosier effort that was rushed.

Caitlin Emma writes:

The move marks the latest battle between states and the Obama administration over what has been perceived to be heavy-handed federal education policy that will continue for the next few years.

Since some Oklahoma children have already started the school year, the Education Department will phase in some of the consequences of No Child Left Behind that Oklahoma had escaped under the waiver: The state must provide tutoring services and public school choice options no later than the 2015-16 school year. But schools that will need a total overhaul must begin that process this school year.

“It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

Perceived to be heavy-handed??? It is heavy-handed.  It is also no surprise.  Fallin should sue, even Mike Petrilli thinks she has a case

“While Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a case against Arne Duncan, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sure as heck does,” he said. “I hope she sues. Nothing in ESEA gives the secretary of education the authority to push states around when it comes to their standards,” Petrilli said according to Politico.  I disagree with him with Jindal’s case.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal makes a strong case against federal involvement with Common Core and its assessments.

Secretary Duncan’s decision with Oklahoma just reinforces his argument.  Governor Fallin should join Jindal’s lawsuit.

Parents and Citizens Are Key to Eradicating Federal Overreach Into Education


The Lyndon B. Johnson Building, HQ of the U.S. Dept. of Education, 2006
Photo credit: Cool Ceasar (Wikimedia Commons)(CC-By-SA 3.0)

Common Core has infiltrated all fifty states even though several governors initially rejected those federally promoted standards. Numerous governors who regret funding and supporting Common Core have promised to repeal the federally aligned standards. Time has shown that those governors have simply renamed the standards. Therefore, the solution to the problem rests with the citizens of each state.

State governors and legislators can refuse to fund any aspect of federal programs imposed upon their state. They can demand that the U.S. Department of Education be required to bring all policy issues to Congress before imposing them on the states, and they can demand that federal level legislators protect state autonomy in education. Governors and legislators have unfortunately bowed to federal pressure concerning Common Core. Citizens are in the best position to protect their children. Only citizens can prevent Common Core from being implemented in their local schools.

Texans rejected Common Core originally, yet Women on the Wall held a National Conference on Education in Austin, Texas, to address processes for eliminating Common Core from their schools. These federally aligned standards were introduced at the district level and wear a variety of new names including CSCOPE. Even though the governor rejected Common Core and refused to fund the program, their schools are infected with federally aligned standards and testing.

Many legislators from both parties have tried to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, the source of most major initiatives which fail our children and undermine the quality of our educational system.

Fairness requires us to recognize the fact that legislators would dissolve the DoED if their constituents supported the effort. If the Common Core Standards and all future federal educational policies are to be stopped, citizens must provide financial and personal support to all legislators willing to neuter the DoED.

The process could begin by removing cabinet status from DoED and by requiring it to return to its original mission: accumulating statistics and being a source of information to the states.  No longer should the DoED be allowed to write policy and impose that policy on the states.

Legislators could demand that the federal government no longer be allowed to tax citizens for federal educational policymaking. The millions of tax dollars removed from the states to implement discretionary and mandatory spending on DoED policies should be returned to the states and the funding for the department should be cut.  Legislators could leave just enough funding to cover the cost of gathering data and disseminating that data to the states.

The basic principle of conservatism is to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, the state constitutions, and state autonomy in education. When conservative legislators refuse to dissolve the U.S. Department of Education, they are ignoring a most basic principle of conservatism.

Conservatives must be willing to work with Democrats who also resent the overreach of the DoED. “Bad Ass Teachers Association” and “Dump Duncan” created by Professor Mark Naison advocate protesting high stakes testing which they claim attack teacher autonomy. They recognize that both political parties are responsible for causing this problem and should be responsible for solving the problem.

Additional support for reigning in the DoED could come from groups like The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Their president believes the DoED is exercising unilateral executive authority as they attempt to federalize teacher-preparation programs. AACTE prefers that Congress be required to deliberate and act on issues of this importance. Limiting the power of the DoED is a goal of the AACTE. Getting along with those who share conservative views occasionally will advance conservatives as being solution driven.

Parents and citizens are the key to eradicating federal overreach. Conservative leaders who work with groups like BATS and AACTE would be able to gain support from a broad base of liberals and conservatives to curtail the DoED, to return autonomy to the states, to allow teachers to function as professionals, and to make it easier for parents to exercise local control of schools.

What Does the No Child Left Behind Waiver Mean for New Hampshire Public Schools?

New Hampshire was granted a waiver from the Federal “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) Act this week.

According to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s press release she said: “New Hampshire is now free to pursue more effective and innovative ways to address the needs of all our students and prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century economy,” …. “By receiving this waiver, New Hampshire will continue to protect its most underserved students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction while also pursuing needed comprehensive reforms and protecting local control.”
Which begs the question: What has the New Hampshire Department of Education been doing for the past decade?

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has certainly shown America what a top-down approach in education can do to schools and their students. If you look at this graph provided by the CATO Institute, you will see the enormous increase in spending on public education, however the achievement level remained virtually unchanged.

What did we get for all of that spending on public education? Not much.

While schools were jumping through the hoops to meet federal requirements and spending precious tax dollars in the process, it’s clear that NCLB never lived up to the high expectations from the legislators who pushed this on the states.

What does a waiver from NCLB mean?

It means we traded one federal “top-down” program that didn’t work well, for another called Common Core. Common Core is another national top-down education program that’s unproven and will cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money.

In the same press release, the NH Commissioner of Education, Virginia Barry said, “This waiver provides our state the opportunity to focus resources on those initiatives that will move our state forward in the best interest of children.”

Were they failing in this effort before? Are they saying that following a federal program led them down a path was not in the best interest of children?

If so, what makes this new federal-top-down program any better? Especially since some of the harshest critics of Common Core come from the Common Core Validation Committee.

Both of the content experts chosen by Common Core refused to sign off on the Common Core Math and English standards due to their poor quality and many flaws.

Are we supposed to believe that another national program that makes schools accountable to bureaucrats instead of parents will finally bring us the quality education children deserve? Knowing the chosen experts by Common Core do not believe these academic standards are worthy of our public schools?

In Gov. Hassan’s press release she admits, “Under No Child Left Behind, approximately 75 percent of the state’s schools would have been labeled “failing” next year. Now, the state can focus on the students that most critically need help: those in schools with the widest achievement gaps and the lowest-performing schools in the state.”

Again, what has the New Hampshire Department of Education been doing for the past decade? Were they too focused on a federal program that contributed to this problem?

Common Core Standards were developed to address the low quality standards that were developed in some states. This was certainly a problem, however developing a set of national standards in Math and English that do not rise up to the level of excellence does not fix this problem.

Instead of working to improve the quality of the New Hampshire State Standards, the Department of Education is focusing on yet another federal education reform program.

There are other states that rejected the Common Core Standards, worked to improve their existing State Standards and still received the waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. This now puts New Hampshire students at a disadvantage and continues to erode state and local control of education in the process.

What other problems come from jumping through the Common Core hoops?

The much criticized practice of “teaching to the test” will continue under Common Core because teacher evaluations are now tied to the standardized test.

SB48 is a Senate Bill that recently passed in the NH House and Senate. Passage of SB48 was a requirement from the U.S. Dept. of Education in order to receive the NCLB waiver. This legislation puts the NH Dept. of Education in charge of remediating schools whose students are not performing well on “the standardized test”. By focusing on the new federal requirements of Common Core, New Hampshire just cemented many more years of schools focusing on “teaching to the test”.

This is a big problem since the Common Core math test has been criticized for its many flaws and focusing on non-academic skills, by math experts. Teachers will be evaluated and schools remediated by the NH Dept. of Ed (DOE) based on a flawed test.

Taxpayers are going to pay a heavy price for this newest and latest national program to fix public education. Another education reform program brought to us by unelected bureaucrats who didn’t manage to fix these problems the first time around and the same ones who think schools need to be accountable to bureaucrats instead of parents.


Debunking Misconceptions: “The Common Core is State-Led”

I thought that I would start a series on common misconceptions related to the Common Core State Standards.  I don’t know how frequently I’ll come back to this series, but as these misconceptions come up or as I hear them I want to address them.  The first is one that I hear quite frequently and I was told was a misconception repeated in the Iowa House Education Committee meeting the other day when the Common Core was briefly discussed.

The Common Core is not state-led.  To be fair, when I say that I’m not saying that the U.S. Department of Education wrote the Common Core.  I’m not even saying it was their idea.  It wasn’t.  Advocates of the Common Core who say it is state-led typically are saying neither of these things happened.

On that we can agree.

It’s always important to get past lingo and clarify what we mean.  When I say something is “state-led,” I mean it is initiated within state departments of education with the blessing of the state’s governor and then approved by the state legislature and then signed into law by the state’s Governor.

A scenario that could have happened with standards that could legitimately be called “state-led.”  Say members within the say Texas Education Agency said “hey, we really like what Massachusetts is doing with their standards.”  They then go on to study them, talk to experts who are knowledgeable with the process of developing those standards, get parental and teacher input, tweak the standards in a way that makes sense to Texas, send them to the Texas Legislature who then approves them, and then Governor Rick Perry signs it into law.  Some Texas Legislators rub elbows with state legislators from other states saying… “this is what we did in Texas, and then state legislators from Massachusetts said, “hey yes you should look at what we’re doing.”  Then other state legislators go back to their states and initiate that process.  Perhaps this conversation could take place within the National Governor’s Association or Council of Chief State School Officers, but the point is they were standards written at the state level, approved in the legislative process and is then reciprocated by other states in a way that makes sense to them.

That would be a “state-led” initiative and a process I could applaud.  States should look for what works.  Why not look at Massachusetts standards, Indiana’s ELA standards, and say California’s math standards (prior to alignment to the Common Core).  I’m for common sense, and that would be common sense.

That isn’t what happened however.

The process was initiated by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  They then delegated the drafting of the standards to Achieve, Inc. who was created by the NGA.  This process was managed by six state Governors who were chosen by a non-democratic process).  The oversight also included the CEOs of Battelle Memorial Institute, Intel Corporation, Prudential Financial, Achieve, Inc. and State Farm Insurance.

This was all financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boeing Company, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the GE Foundation, IBM Corporation, Intel Foundation, Nationwide, the Prudential Foundation, the State Farm Insurance Company, Washington Mutual Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewett Foundation.

To top it off the NGA-recognized “reviews” of the standards commissioned by Achieve were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an interest group who were pushing the standards to begin with.  No conflict of interest there!  Since January of 2008 the Gates Foundation has awarded the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers over $35 Million (this is a dated amount, it most certainly has increased by now).

This is what we call state-led?  No, if advocates of the Common Core were honest they would say it is special-interest written and funded.  However it was Federally-pushed getting other states on board.  That’s where Race to the Top grants come in.  Through the 2009 stimulus package $4.35 billion in discretionary money was given to the U.S. Department of Education and in order to qualify for these grants states had to adopt the Common Core.

This is state-led?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan went on to tell states that in order to receive a No Child Left Behind Waiver had to, for starters, adopt the Common Core and then adopt other “reforms” prescribed by the Department.

That’s state-led?

Even Tony Bennett, who was recently ousted as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, bemoaned the standards being “federalized.”

No state has yet adopted these through their state legislature.  That’s state-led?

Under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, education is among the most important policy power not “delegated to the United States” and therefore is “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Historically, U.S. Education policy-making has been a matter of local control, where parents have the most influence.  That was not honored in this process.

So we can all the Common Core a whole plethora of things, but “state-led” can’t honestly be one of them.

Arne Duncan in a Second Obama Term

arne-duncan-300x225Over at EdWeek Michele McNeil wrote about five issues facing Education Secretary Arne Duncan going into a 2nd Obama term.  I wanted to highlight three of them:

First the strings that came along with the No Child Left Behind waivers…

Waivers: His crew has approved No Child Left Behind flexibility applications for 34 states plus the District of Columbia. These are incredibly complicated, evolving plans that are already creating controversy—and the hard work of implementation has barely gotten started. Virginia had to redo its school performance targets—after the feds had already approved the methodology behind the numbers—after a huge firestorm from civil rights groups. In several states, education advocates are loudly complaining about rules that allow states to set different school targets for different subgroups of at-risk kids. And on the national scene, many are growing alarmed at the small role graduation rates are playing in accountability system. What’s more, as new governors and state chiefs take the helm in waiver states—especially if they are from a different party than those who crafted the waiver plan—we can expect some states to start wanting to substantially change their plans. How agreeable with the U.S. Department of Education be? The first test case may be in Indiana, where Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett was upset by Democrat Glenda Ritz, who has some very different ideas about K-12 education in the Hoosier State.

Then there is Race to the Top… was it effective.  In a word – no.

Race to the Top: The president’s signature education initiative will come to an end within the next two years—or at least the original iteration in which 11 states plus D.C. shared $4 billion. What will states have to show for all of this money? Did states actually do everything they said they would? Did the money move needle on not just policy, but also on student achievement? Or will it be too soon to tell? Either way, Race to the Top will face a lot of scrutiny during the president’s second term. (And actually, so will the School Improvement Grant program, which got supercharged as part of the 2009 economic-stimulus package. The same goes for the Investing in Innovation program. People will be asking the same questions of SIG and i3.)

Then the Common Core which we can now call ObamaCore.

Common core: Duncan will have to walk a fine line between supporting states as they implement common standards and tests, and, in the words of Checker Finn, not loving them to death. The campaign offered up some fiery rhetoric on the common core, particularly from Republicans who said the country is proceeding down a path toward a national curriculum. Some speculate that Bennett’s loss in Indiana was partly due to his support of common core

We need to roll our sleeves up as we’ve got work to do, and it will mainly come through pushing back at the state level.

Race-Based Academic Goals

I couldn’t let news out of Florida late last week go by without comment.  CBS Tampa reported that the Florida State Board of Education passed a plan for racially-based academic goals.

On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities.

Of course all this is determined by the FCAT which proven to be a *brilliant* achievement in and of itself.

…But the Florida Department of Education said the goals recognize that not every group is starting from the same point and are meant to be ambitious but realistic.

As an example, the percentage of white students scoring at or above grade level (as measured by whether they scored a 3 or higher on the reading FCAT) was 69 percent in 2011-2012, according to the state. For black students, it was 38 percent, and for Hispanics, it was 53 percent.

Oh and we have the Obama administration to thank for this.

In addition, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan said that setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations. (emphasis mine)

Can somebody explain to me how this can be seen as anything other than racist.  Let’s lower expectations (or raise them) because of the color of a student’s skin.  Their goal should be 100% literacy – period.