Guest Article: Why I Oppose the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

A guest article by a practicing K-12 teacher.

Introduction by David Kristofferson – I have “met” (in a “virtual” sense) many people since opening my blog in Fall 2016 including many educators, not all of whom agree with my positions.  Recently a practicing teacher who wishes to remain anonymous approached me about writing an article on the Common Core Math Standards, and I agreed to publish the article here.  This article represents this teacher’s personal experience and informed opinion.  It does not necessarily reflect my own views.

I often find that teachers are put in a position of having to implement state and federal mandates without agreeing with them.  If one reads education forums, many teachers feel the need to post anonymously to avoid recriminations.  I welcome such posts here in the hope of encouraging wider discussion.

One of my main themes in this blog has always centered on concerns about using our children as guinea pigs in educational experiments in California public schools.  Perhaps if more people discuss these issues in advance without fear of retribution, we might have better educational outcomes.


I am sharing my perspective here as a public school teacher, private tutor, and former master STEM student, who spent two decades in a technology-related career before leaving it to raise my family. Since then, I have taught math, science, and technical courses in a number of professional contexts, including both private and public K-12 schools.

BACKGROUND

Much has already been written about the objections and controversies surrounding the rollout of the Common Core State Standards, initially adopted by 46 US states in the period from 2010 to 2014. Aside from the four states that never adopted them (Virginia, Texas, Alaska, and Nebraska), and one state (Minnisota) that adopted only the English Language Arts and not the Mathematics standards, another five states have since withdrawn them (Arizona, Oklahoma, Indiana, South Carolina, and New Jersey).

According to one source [1], another 12 states are in the process of repealing Common Core: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Maryland. It is no coincidence that many of these states are Republican-controlled, given how highly politicized the Obama-era rollout of the Common Core became. Objections from the right have included notions of a federal takeover of public education, driven by a socialist agenda, while other detractors have called it a large-scale privatization of public education at the hands of textbook, testing, and ed-tech companies.[2] 

Setting aside such extremized objections, there are problematic issues relating to the standards-aligned materials, computer-based testing, and the hidden educational philosophies that have been baked into the standards. On matters of scale, it is evident that certain textbook companies (Pearson, CTB/McGraw-Hill), and testing services (The College Board) stand to reap billions of dollars from school districts via the nationwide market and the multi-state testing consortiums, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), that Common Core has birthed. School districts have also had to spend additional funds on expensive computer systems that are mandated for testing.

While some might argue that having more computers in the schools is a good thing, the evidence for this is by no means conclusive. There are also issues of privacy and data collection on students that warrant further concern. Fortunately, the tide is also turning in this regard. Of the original 22 states and entities that were involved in PARCC, 18 states have dropped their participation.[3] In SBAC, 10 of the 30 original members have also since dropped out.[4]

Matters of scale and the accompanying concerns about the interests that stand to benefit from them are troubling enough, but they are not the focus of my own objections. Rather than debating the merits of costs versus benefits, I question the very nature of the benefit being claimed. The heart of my objection is the wrong-mindedness I perceive in the pedagogical approach and restructuring of the content that has accompanied the rollout of these new standards, much of which has been subtly baked into the standards by design. In this regard, though they’ve been promoted as the antidote to poor student comprehension and lack of conceptual understanding, I believe the new standards actually poison the waters even further.

THE FUNDAMENTAL FLAW

I’ll begin my illustration with an example. One Common Core-aligned rubric I found online for 6th grade ratio and proportion poses the following problem:

CCSSimage1

In the standards-based grading rubric that accompanies this problem on the linked page above, a score of 3 is awarded to the student who “solves for correct answer but uses a larger unit to justify reasoning,” while a 4 (the highest possible score) is awarded to the student who “provides correct answer using unit rate to support reasoning.” By this rubric, the student who sees that mileage can be compared directly using a fuel quantity of 12 gallons (which actually requires greater mathematical insight) is marked down (and quite excessively, on a 4-point scale) for failing to perform a division that is entirely unnecessary in the context of the problem as written.

The rubric makes no claims about checking for consistent proportionality using the unit rate, which would be the one valid reason for requiring its consideration, and that point is well beyond the scope of this 6th grade assessment anyway. If a problem is going to require students to compute the unit rate, it should ask them directly to do so, and not just penalize them as a matter of “Oops, gotcha!” Anybody who claims this is a matter of better mathematical understanding is either seriously mistaken or just plain lying to you.

There are many more examples of this sort of faulty logic in the way the Common Core math standards have been implemented, across all grades K through 12. Elementary school students are required to perform three digit additions and subtractions using a number line, long after most of them are capable of working with multiple digits and carrying. If a student is astute enough to do the math mentally, credit is reduced for failing to “show work,” with work in this case being something akin to counting by fives, tens, and hundreds on one’s fingers and then marking in the corresponding arrows on a number line. Supposedly, this is a valuable mathematical skill that demonstrates deep understanding because it’s the basis by which the ancient Chinese abacus works.

Meanwhile, the memorization of such things as single-digit multiplication tables and the algorithm for long division are becoming increasingly eschewed.[5] The standards do still include them, but without the reinforcing support contained in the traditional math curriculum, they are not mastered as well as they once were. The budding capacity of early memory for math is thereby squandered on dead-end techniques that inhibit performance in the long run, and prevent further understanding from developing later.

Nowhere in the rubric accompanying the above example is any attention paid to whether or not the student has mastered a procedural step or is ready to move beyond it, and more generally, the philosophy driving the new curricula dismisses such procedural mastery as a problematic rote skill that hampers understanding. Meanwhile, students are burdened with empty words and phrases to memorize and apply repeatedly, as if all this explication and rote expression of vocabulary somehow would convey better understanding. As Barry Garelick and others have written[6] extensively, this is “rote understanding” at best, which in my opinion serves as a dead-end to any flexible or deeper understanding.

FALSE PROMISES AND MISPLACED SUPPORT

The Common Core math standards have been written to appear eminently reasonable on the surface. They were developed with input from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), so they have the imprimatur of teachers and research behind them. For high school math, they provide both a Traditional (one year of Algebra 1, one year of Geometry, and one year of Algebra 2) and an Integrated (a mix of Algebra, Geometry, and Statistics every year) pathway through the material, so they are agnostic to the question of which curricular sequencing they support, allowing for greater educational innovation.

They claim to stress “deep understanding” in addition to procedure, which sounds like a good thing at first, until you take a closer look at how this goal is actually approached. To call what they focus on “understanding” is both misleading and wrong, and there’s a clear trend showing persistent loss of procedural proficiency among our students as a result. The end result of the Common Core-aligned math curriculum is STEM-deficiency rather than STEM-proficiency. It is now a generally accepted fact that only honors compression or outside tutoring will achieve the STEM-readiness that used to be accessible to any motivated and capable student.

Recent research on the success of the Common Core Standards in Mathematics indicates that it has been disappointing.[7] Though sourced from a conservative think tank, another article[8] cites failures of the Common Core to promote college readiness in math, the very thing it was touted to accomplish. The standards fail to achieve even general college readiness, and STEM career readiness is even more at risk.

I have met too many administrators who’ve swallowed the Common Core proponents’ story hook, line, and sinker. When asked about issues related to the worsening trend of poor student comprehension and poor knowledge transfer from one context to another, they insist that it cannot be happening under the new standards and the greater “depth of understanding” that they embody. Meanwhile, they are dismissive of objections coming from parents, teachers, and students on the ground.

Many parents see the performance of their children dropping not only in math, but also with spelling and grammar[9], and they are frustrated about it. They object that they can no longer help their children with or even understand the math homework that is being assigned, while students lose valuable elective classroom time to all the required standardized testing. The same administrators who dismiss these parents for their questioning of all the canned verbiage about the benefits of the new standards (and there is a whole lot of it, indeed) have also balked when teachers expressed frustration with being forced to do away with their well-established and vetted curricular materials as the wheels of education are being reinvented right under their feet.

When Common Core first took hold, there was enough missing curricular material to explain the early drops in student performance. (The very fact that this material was not developed and provided long before the switchover is quite telling of the mindset that drove its adoption.) Now that these curricula have been published and put into use for some years, the middling results are less easy to dismiss. I will outline the fundamental problems as I see them in this article, and I’ll get into more detail about each problem in a series of follow-ups.

Despite having so many of these intrinsic issues, countless administrators, teachers, and education researchers have contributed to or been swayed by the story put forward by Common Core proponents, that these new standards have been designed and built from the ground up to present and foster a deeper understanding of the material, starting at the beginning and running all throughout the K-12 curriculum. The standards have been written and organized to have this patina, but it is mostly an empty facade.

VAGUE CONCEPTS AND PRACTICES VERSUS CLEAR PROCEDURES

The main pedagogical shift that education reformers have inserted into the Common Core is an insistence that greater understanding comes from emphasizing concepts and practices, rather than procedural mastery, which they dismiss as “drill and kill.” To accomplish this, two sets of standards are involved: mathematical content and mathematical practices. The content pieces are too numerous and detailed for any but the most proficient of students to actually know, given the current trends in teaching, and the practices are abstracted so far from any actual skills or tasks that they become little more than empty platitudes to normalize flagging proficiency.

The content standards have been organized around the most prominent conceptual domains of mathematics, in a clever way that makes a lot of sense. The problem is, they focus too much on the what, and not enough on the how, as though mathematical skill might be taught the same way as history, through directed exposure to the pieces of a grand concept map that will be covered with increasing detail over time. The difference with math is that the concepts are self-contained in the material, and so students do gain general proficiency by dwelling on specific procedural details of what they have already learned. Deeper understanding actually does emerge from procedural mastery, and that understanding encompasses much more than the rote points of understanding that are contained in the standards.

Without adequate support for this procedural mastery, the clustered conceptual outline scheme by which the content standards are subdivided and organized becomes too smart for its own good. The result is too much reductionism in each of the standards, forcing rote memorization of isolated topic points without adequate context to frame them and hold them together. This impedes rather than fosters mathematical development.

For instance, the high school level domain of Arithmetic with Polynomials and Rational Expressions[10] includes a cluster titled “Use polynomial identities to solve problems.” This is a vague description that could potentially indicate a wide variety of different topics and types of problems, and it contains only two numbered standards, one of which is optional (indicated by (+)):

  1. Prove polynomial identities and use them to describe numerical relationships. For example, the polynomial identity  (x^2 + y^2)^2 = (x^2 – y^2)^2 + (2xy)^2 can be used to generate Pythagorean triples.
  2. (+) Know and apply the Binomial Theorem for the expansion of (x + y)^n in powers of x and y for a positive integer n, where x and y are any numbers, with coefficients determined for example by Pascal’s Triangle.

It is possible to cross-reference this with other standards and domains that speak specifically about factoring quadratic polynomials or recognizing factors and their properties when the expressions are written in factored form, but the more general skill of knowing procedures to factor a wide variety of commonly encountered expressions is hardly mentioned at all, except in scattered bits and pieces. Written in this way, the common core standards dispense with common skills that would make all the required knowledge more tractable in the minds of students.

Proponents may correctly point out how the wording of each content standard does indeed appear to call for deeper understanding, but there is no pathway provided to achieve the procedural mastery necessary to cement this understanding in long-term memory. To make matters worse, the content standards rely heavily on words and terminology that are open to redefinition by curriculum designers, rather than sound and self-consistent techniques and skills.

Each content standard describes a certain skill in a relatively precise way, but when taken as a whole, they are far too numerous and disconnected. As a result, teachers and curriculum designers fall back on the clustered groupings of these standards, which are far more vague and open to interpretation as to how they would convey the individual standards that comprise them. In essence, there is a lot of blank space that needs to be filled in order to interconnect all of these standards, and there is not enough support for the traditional curriculum that has been so complete in calling for not just what students need to know, but also how well they need to know each topic by virtue of demonstrable procedure. Some would argue this lack of support extends even further, into the territory of outright dismantling.

The meaning of each content standard becomes harder to pin down without having particular skills or narrow problems specified in order to frame it. Absent this pre-existing structure, the Core-aligned curricula delineate pathways along which far too many students are now being dragged by the nose while actually learning less reproducible math than ever before.

Examine the content standards at any grade level, and you’ll see a large number of very specific and impressive looking targets, grouped into vaguely worded and open-ended clusters. These clusters purportedly represent their constituent standards, but they also serve to introduce a far greater degree of vagueness into the description of what the standards actually call for. The individual standards are too numerous for most teachers to track, so they find themselves using the clusters as proxies to chart and assess student progress. In essence, the elegant dance between content and practice that goes with learning how to think mathematically has been reduced to arbitrary clusters of “content knowledge” bathed in a vague pool of one-size-fits-all “mathematical practices.”

As a result, teaching to these standards puts too much emphasis on form without substance, on pre-canned thought processes and operations, including a much larger than intended number of memorized tricks, while at the same time claiming to liberate students from a prior structure that in many ways was less restrictive than the offered solution. Mathematical practices are abstracted so much in the Common Core that they serve as little more than a way to give credit to students who either fail to arrive at the correct answer procedurally or fail to make adequate progress with the skills as measured via the content standards.

OTHER PROBLEMS

I wouldn’t object so vehemently if I felt the standards, their metrics, and the related assessments, as implemented so far, were measuring something of value to the process of developing mathematical proficiency. By now, it’s pretty apparent that I don’t. And I’m not the only one.

The Fordham Institute studied the standards early on and expressed some similar reservations in its 2010 report[11], which was still for the most part glowingly positive. These reservations are all the more remarkable given that the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation actually paid Fordham to promote his Common Core pet project,[12] and Fordham found the Common Core mathematics standards to be superior to those existing in 39 states at that time.

That Fordham Institute report on the pre-existing California math standards, first adopted in 1997, reads as follows:

California’s standards could well serve as a model for internationally competitive national standards. They are explicit, clear, and cover the essential topics for rigorous mathematics instruction. The introduction for the standards is notable for providing excellent and clear guidance on mathematics education. The introduction states simply: “An important theme stressed throughout this framework is the need for a balance in emphasis on computational and procedural skills, conceptual understanding, and problem solving. This balance is defined by the standards and is illustrated by problems that focus on these components individually and in combination. All three components are essential.” California has provided a set of standards that achieves these goals admirably.[13]

Here are the concluding paragraphs of that same report:

With some minor differences, Common Core and California both cover the essential content for a rigorous, K-12 mathematics program. That said, California’s standards are exceptionally clear and well presented, and indeed represent a model for mathematically sound writing. They are further supported by excellent peripheral material, including the  Framework that provides clear and detailed guidance on the standards. Taken together, these enhancements make the standards easier to read and follow than Common Core. In addition, the high school content is organized so that the standards about various topics, such as quadratic functions, are grouped together in a mathematically coherent way. The organization of the Common Core is more difficult to navigate, in part because standards on related topics sometimes appear separately rather than together.

Common Core includes some minor high school content—including the vertex form of quadratics and max/min problems—that is missing in California.

Conceptual understanding is not simply the memorization of or tracking to a concept map. It comes from practicing math correctly and without excessive error, so that students are recognizing, applying, and grappling with the underlying concepts extensively enough for the interconnections to become self-apparent in context, by direct experience.

Paradoxically, by trying to attach deeper understanding to the required content in the way they have elected to, the Common Core authors have created more of the very same stereotyped notion of content that they set out to avoid in the first place. Framed this way, the standards become little more than testing points for rote practice and memorization, with the focus shifted from mathematical calculation to linguistic verbalization.

The 1997 California Standards stated topics that needed to be worked correctly (e.g. graph the function and compute the intercepts), without dictating or even attempting to indicate how they needed to be worked. There was enough flexibility to allow and foster a wide range of mathematically valid thought, as long as the student could put it in practice to arrive at a correctly justified result. Not so with Common Core. Now, it’s vital to follow the arbitrary procedural dictates of a teacher or curriculum designer, with greater penalties during assessment for those who don’t comply.

More recently, the California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education published a report[14] with further misgivings. I haven’t included much about equity in this piece, but the report demonstrates how even those who place it front and center in their mission are seeing problems. Common Core proponents often cite equity as one of the benefits being served against the costs, so these results serve a huge blow to that argument.

Since its proponents tout the Common Core math standards as suitable for the 21st century mathematics classroom, I feel compelled to supply a list of topics that, even though many of them were included in the 1997 California Standards, are now considered optional (i.e. not included in the published curricula) for standard high school mathematics under Common Core. Readers may skip to the end of this text block if not interested:

Perform arithmetic operations with complex numbers.

3. (+) Find the conjugate of a complex number; use conjugates to find moduli and quotients of complex numbers.

Represent complex numbers and their operations on the complex plane.

4. (+) Represent complex numbers on the complex plane in rectangular and polar form (including real and imaginary numbers), and explain why the rectangular and polar forms of a given complex number represent the same number.

5. (+) Represent addition, subtraction, multiplication, and conjugation of complex numbers geometrically on the complex plane; use properties of this representation for computation.For example, (–1 + √3 i)^3= 8 because (–1 + √3 i) has modulus 2 and argument 120°.

6. (+) Calculate the distance between numbers in the complex plane as the modulus of the difference, and the midpoint of a segment as the average of the numbers at its endpoints.

Use complex numbers in polynomial identities and equations.

8. (+) Extend polynomial identities to the complex numbers. For example, rewrite x^2 + 4 as (x + 2i)(x – 2i).

9. (+) Know the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra; show that it is true for quadratic polynomials.

Represent and model with vector quantities.

1. (+) Recognize vector quantities as having both magnitude and direction. Represent vector quantities by directed line segments, and use appropriate symbols for vectors and their magnitudes (e.g., v, |v|, ||v||, v).

2. (+) Find the components of a vector by subtracting the coordinates of an initial point from the coordinates of a terminal point.

3. (+) Solve problems involving velocity and other quantities that can be represented by vectors.

Perform operations on vectors.

4. (+) Add and subtract vectors.

         a. Add vectors end-to-end, component-wise, and by the parallelogram rule. Understand that the magnitude of a sum of two vectors is typically not the sum of the magnitudes.

         b. Given two vectors in magnitude and direction form, determine the magnitude and direction of their sum.

         c. Understand vector subtraction vw as v + (–w), where –w is the additive inverse of w, with the same magnitude as w and pointing in the opposite direction. Represent vector subtraction graphically by connecting the tips in the appropriate order, and perform vector subtraction component-wise.

5. (+) Multiply a vector by a scalar.

         a. Represent scalar multiplication graphically by scaling vectors and possibly reversing their direction; perform scalar multiplication component-wise, e.g., as c(v_x, v_y) = (cv_x, cv_y).

         b. Compute the magnitude of a scalar multiple cv using ||cv|| = |c|v. Compute the direction of cv knowing that when |c|v ≠ 0, the direction of cv is either along v (for c > 0) or against v (for c < 0).

Perform operations on matrices and use matrices in applications.

6. (+) Use matrices to represent and manipulate data, e.g., to represent payoffs or incidence relationships in a network.

7. (+) Multiply matrices by scalars to produce new matrices, e.g., as when all of the payoffs in a game are doubled.

8. (+) Add, subtract, and multiply matrices of appropriate dimensions.

9. (+) Understand that, unlike multiplication of numbers, matrix multiplication for square matrices is not a commutative operation, but still satisfies the associative and distributive properties.

10. (+) Understand that the zero and identity matrices play a role in matrix addition and multiplication similar to the role of 0 and 1 in the real numbers. The determinant of a square matrix is nonzero if and only if the matrix has a multiplicative inverse.

11. (+) Multiply a vector (regarded as a matrix with one column) by a matrix of suitable dimensions to produce another vector. Work with matrices as transformations of vectors.

12. (+) Work with 2 × 2 matrices as transformations of the plane, and interpret the absolute value of the determinant in terms of area.

Use polynomial identities to solve problems.

5. (+) Know and apply the Binomial Theorem for the expansion of (x + y)^n in powers of x and y for a positive integer n, where x and y are any numbers, with coefficients determined for example by Pascal’s Triangle.

Rewrite rational expressions.

7. (+) Understand that rational expressions form a system analogous to the rational numbers, closed under addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by a nonzero rational expression; add, subtract, multiply, and divide rational expressions.

Solve systems of equations.

8. (+) Represent a system of linear equations as a single matrix equation in a vector variable.

9. (+) Find the inverse of a matrix if it exists and use it to solve systems of linear equations (using technology for matrices of dimension 3 × 3 or greater).

Analyze functions using different representations.

         d. (+) Graph rational functions, identifying zeros and asymptotes when suitable factorizations are available, and showing end behavior.

Analyze functions using different representations.

        7d. (+) Graph rational functions, identifying zeros and asymptotes when suitable factorizations are available, and showing end behavior.

10. (+) Demonstrate an understanding of functions and equations defined parametrically and graph them. CA

11. (+) Graph polar coordinates and curves. Convert between polar and rectangular coordinate systems. CA

Build a function that models a relationship between two quantities.

         7c. (+) Compose functions.For example, if T(y) is the temperature in the atmosphere as a function of height, and h(t) is the height of a weather balloon as a function of time, then T(h(t)) is the temperature at the location of the weather balloon as a function of time.

Build new functions from existing functions.

         4b. (+) Verify by composition that one function is the inverse of another.

         4c. (+) Read values of an inverse function from a graph or a table, given that the function has an inverse.

         4d. (+) Produce an invertible function from a non-invertible function by restricting the domain.

5. (+) Understand the inverse relationship between exponents and logarithms and use this relationship to solve problems involving logarithms and exponents.

Extend the domain of trigonometric functions using the unit circle.

3. (+) Use special triangles to determine geometrically the values of sine, cosine, tangent for π/3, π/4 and π/6, and use the unit circle to express the values of sine, cosine, and tangent for π–x, π+x, and 2π–x in terms of their values for x, where x is any real number.

4. (+) Use the unit circle to explain symmetry (odd and even) and periodicity of trigonometric functions.

Model periodic phenomena with trigonometric functions.

6. (+) Understand that restricting a trigonometric function to a domain on which it is always increasing or always decreasing allows its inverse to be constructed.

7. (+) Use inverse functions to solve trigonometric equations that arise in modeling contexts; evaluate the solutions using technology, and interpret them in terms of the context.

Prove and apply trigonometric identities.

9. (+) Prove the addition and subtraction formulas for sine, cosine, and tangent and use them to solve problems.

10. (+) Prove the half angle and double angle identities for sine and cosine and use them to solve problems. CA

Apply trigonometry to general triangles.

9. (+) Derive the formula A = (1/2)ab sin(C) for the area of a triangle by drawing an auxiliary line from a vertex perpendicular to the opposite side.

10. (+) Prove the Laws of Sines and Cosines and use them to solve problems.

11. (+) Understand and apply the Law of Sines and the Law of Cosines to find unknown measurements in right and non-right triangles (e.g., surveying problems, resultant forces).

Understand and apply theorems about circles.

4.        (+) Construct a tangent line from a point outside a given circle to the circle.

Translate between the geometric description and the equation for a conic section.

3. (+) Derive the equations of ellipses and hyperbolas given the foci, using the fact that the sum or difference of distances from the foci is constant.

Explain volume formulas and use them to solve problems.

2. (+) Give an informal argument using Cavalieri’s principle for the formulas for the volume of a sphere and other solid figures.

It would appear that a lot of very important topics relating to science and engineering have been removed entirely from the curriculum. To be fair, there is now a whole new domain in the standards pertaining to statistics and probability, requiring basic knowledge of topics that were formerly covered in a more advanced class, but even that decision is questionable. Covering these topics earlier means glossing over their foundational innards, to create yet another hot bed of rote understanding without the prerequisite skills and procedures required to frame them.

THE TAKEAWAY

With all these shortcomings and problems, the only thing 21st Century about these new standards is their technological reliance. They require a computer to carry out so much assessment along hundreds of vaguely indicated and poorly defined threads; they model a process of learning that is based more on the concept maps and the overzealous context-switching found in computer-human interactions than on sound educational psychology, and they use computer-databases to manage all the attendant student data. In effect, they treat learners and the evaluation of learning in a manner more suited to computer programs than to human beings. You might even begin to suspect that Bill Gates had something to do with them.[15] When I worked in the field of digital data analysis and signal processing, we had an expression for this approach: garbage in, garbage out.

Unfortunately, it would appear the current flavor of Common Core style computerized testing and metrics of proficiency are here to stay. Even states that have repealed or never adopted the standards are now using testing and curricular alternatives that are very similar in form and function. In this piece, I have raised some fundamental objections in the hopes that they will be more widely considered and debated. I would like to see more thought-provoking analysis and pushback from parents centered around these concerns, and I will expand on them in a series of postings.

On the heels of Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards contain more of these same issues, in a discipline of study where the reduction to content and practices is even more alarmingly ill-informed.

I fear that, unless the broader society engages more visibly with these issues, in the current climate of educational evaluation at all levels using one-size-fits-all standardized testing, much more damage will be done to our public schools. Even as it has evolved from “No Child Left Behind” to “Race to the Top” and “Every Student Succeeds Act,” aided and abetted with Common Core-informed curricula and assessments, the net effect has been unchanged, a systematic sapping of vitality from our education establishment, delivered in the name of reform.

Other References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Core_State_Standards_Initiative

https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/09/20/why-states-are-leaving-common-core-in-droves/

https://www.al.com/news/2019/03/whats-up-with-alabama-lawmakers-and-common-core.html

http://2014trends.hackeducation.com/ccss.html

http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/common-core-states

https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/04/29/common-core-work-research

http://constructionlitmag.com/culture/why-race-to-the-top-is-as-potentially-damaging-as-no-child-left-behind/

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/01/06contract.h34.html

https://cd6dbb00-7991-40bc-bfd8-e2328db3c72e.filesusr.com/ugd/1e0c79_f53992db63314ed5aa4f5c3c29e0e434.pdf


Author: David Kristofferson

Retired scientist, teacher, bioinformatician, IT director, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist (7690 miles and 724,300 feet of climbing in 2015), backpacker, you name it! Current avocation is tutoring high school students near San Mateo, CA in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Please see the Bio link in the right sidebar for my detailed background information.

5 thoughts on “Guest Article: Why I Oppose the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics”

  1. Fellow educator here….GREAT article….agree 100% with what you shared….hoping more teachers, administrators, districts, etc… speak up for change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For a parent without deep understanding of “how to teach” math or anything else for that matter, it is very difficult to identify bullshit and realize that math instruction (math as an example) now lacks practice/drill necessary and other things you describe in this article. It took me a while to just scratch the surface on the issue after actively looking for “what’s wrong with the system” – Barbara Oakley’s news letter helps immensely. Other parents i talk to wonder constantly whether math instruction is good or bad and why and how. So that’s my comment… my question is how do i supplement my elementary students’ math instruction in the most efficient way? What programs would you recommend? Short answer or a more extensive blog post on the topic would be hugely appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Masha. You pose excellent questions, and I will be working on this in the weeks to come. I’ve decided to set up and run my own blog, as there is so very much to be said on the topic. My number one goal will be to provide resources for parents, in addition to ongoing commentary and follow-ups.

      David has posted elsewhere his concerns about NGSS (the Next Generation Science Standards) and I share those as well. Fortunately for parents of younger kids (and I now have two in elementary school myself), those issues are less pertinent at this stage of their education. What is highly pertinent is the skill-based math instruction that they are not receiving, and that will be the focus of my initial work.

      When my daughter first entered kindergarten, I took a “wait and see” approach. I didn’t want to lead her to be bored in class by giving her too much previewed information, and I was less informed about all this three years ago. Now it’s very clear to me that her receiving this information is essential, and if I wait until fourth grade for her to receive it, it will be too late.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s