Posts will come less frequently over the next couple weeks. I have begun a ghostwriting project on the universal basic income. I will certainly have to share my findings when I am done, but it has turned out to be far more challenging a project than I had imagined.
Over the last few weeks, we have discussed the positives and negatives of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). From the reasonable amount of information I have gathered, the idea appears to be sound, and intentions appear to be beneficent. We have certainly seen some severe shortcomings in the implementation of the new standards, particularly in the area of assessments, but overall this appears to be a positive step in the reform of American education. I tend to be rather progressive in my politics, but there seems to be far more political upheaval over the transition than I believe is warranted. In my opinion, this is a result of conservative ideologues pushing misinformation about the program in order to confuse the public into maintaining the status quo. One of the most popular posts that has been circulating bullhorn circles has been the article, which I believe originated in September of 2014 on the blog The Federalist by managing editor Joy Pullman entitled “Top Ten Things Parents Hate About the Common Core.” I would like to address these points individually and evaluate their veracity and logic. 1. The Senseless, infuriating math. Right off the bat, I must address one of the greatest misconceptions about the CCSS. Critics like Pullman believe that the teaching methods popping up in class and the “infuriating” math problems are a result of the CCSS. This is FALSE. The CCSS are no more than they pretend to be: standards. The CCSS allows complete freedom for the states, localities, and schools to implement teaching methods and curricula as they see fit. Nowhere in the math standards is there reference to confusing block diagrams, asinine number line tricks, or round-a-bout number transfer schemes. In one of the viral posts going around the net is the response of a father and his response to a math problem that confused both him and his son. The father points to his degree in electrical engineering to substantiate the difficulty of the problem, but it must have been a while since he has done any math because the problem took me about 14 seconds to answer. I will admit that it is a stupid question, but it is a product of a new curriculum (developed at a level below that of the federal government) trying to teach one of the core standards which reads, “Students understand multidigit number up to 1,000 written in base 10 notation recognizing that the digits in each place represent amounts of thousands, hundreds, tens, or ones.” (Common Core). Pullman only rants on the teaching method (already shown to have its origins beyond the CCSS), but she claims these are the “least efficient ways” to do math. There is no support for this claim other than the fact that the methods are different from those that she learned. Yes, the methods are difficult, and maybe they’re not the best, but if we can lay a foundation of logical reasoning for our children, we may raise a generation who can think for themselves instead of parroting illogical rants of apathetic pundits. 2. The Lies Pullman lists a handful of what she calls “half-truths.” Fully evaluating each of these claims would take far more time than I’m willing to employ, but I can provide some qualifying information. First half-truth: common core is internationally bench-marked. Please see my discussion on the subject in Proponents of the Common Core. Second half-truth: the common core is evidence-based. There is only one piece of evidence I need to justify an overhaul of the educational system: the United States spends more on public education per capita than any other country (even the ones that subsidize college) yet our students still score in the middle of the pack among developed nations (“U.S. Education”, 2013). Maybe the CCSS won’t work, but it’s probably going to be better than whatever we’re doing now. Third half-truth: the standards get students college- and career-ready. Pullman points to only one article to support the claim that students are only “community college ready.” This paper almost solely attacks the development of the standards, providing very few details about the final standards themselves. The only specifics the paper criticizes are the final points of the math standards, which they claim, do not get students to the point of college readiness (Milgrim & Stotsky, 2013). However, the claim that having students only studying algebra through high school will not have them ready for college is empirically false. One of the aims of the CCSS is to reduce the number of topics studied and increase the depth of knowledge in those topics, which will require the removal of some subjects. Granted this is anecdotal evidence, but my own experience with precalculus in high school (a main component the article asserts would have prepared students) did very little to help me as I began calculus. Not to mention, I went to college with many people who were launched directly into calculus courses without a precalculus prep course, and they did just fine. Calculus is essentially just a fancy way to add and subtract. I believe that I would have had a decided advantage if I had a better foundation in algebra. Fourth and final half-truth: the standards are rigorous. Pullman claims they are nothing more than rigid. I point back to my previous paragraph to answer this. The standards only provide objectives and some suggestions. How schools and teachers reach those objectives is completely their choice. I can’t imagine a way to implement standards that is less rigid.
to be continued…
“Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.” Corestandards.org. The Common Core State Standards Initiative. Web. 31 Dec. 2014. <http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/Math_Standards.pdf>. Milgrim, R. James, and Sandra Stotsky. “Can This Country Survive Common Core’s College Readiness Level?” Stanford.edu. Stanfor University, 1 Sept. 2013. Web. 31 Dec. 2014. <ftp://math.stanford.edu/pub/papers/milgram/ZimbaMilgramStotskyFinal.pdf>. Pullman, Joy. “Top Ten Things Parents Hate About Common Core.” The Federalist. 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 31 Dec. 2014. <http://thefederalist.com/2014/09/24/top-ten-things-parents-hate-about-common-core/>. “U.S. Education Spending Tops Global List, Study Shows.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 25 June 2013. Web. 31 Dec. 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-education-spending-tops-global-list-study-shows/>.