kitchen table math, the sequel: Our Country Deserves Better Than This!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Our Country Deserves Better Than This!

From Jay P. Greene's Blog - Sandra Stotsky tells us what’s what:

“If another country wanted other countries to respect its educational system and the reforms it was trying to make, who would it choose to lead such an important professional project as the development of its national standards in mathematics and in the language of its educational system itself? In any other country in the world, one would expect a distinguished mathematician at the college level to be asked to chair the mathematics standards-writing committee–someone who commands the respect of the mathematics profession (and obviously is an expert on mathematics). For the language standards-writing committee, one would likewise expect an eminent scholar in a college-level department–someone whose command of the language and understanding of the texts that inform the development of this language could not be questioned. If the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers had thought about national pride (and national need) as well as academic/educational expertise, then all of us would respect the Common Core Initiative and look forward with eagerness to the drafts the NGA and CCSSO have promised to make public in July.

These two organizations could have followed, for example, the exemplary procedures followed by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, on which I had the privilege to serve. The Panel was chaired by the former president of one of the major universities in the country, all Panel members were identified at the outset, their qualifications were made known to the pubic, their procedures were open to the public and taped as well, and the final product was hammered out in public, after dozens of reviewers provided critical comments.

But instead of choosing nationally known scholars to chair and staff these committees–to assure us of the integrity and quality of the product–the NGA and the CCSSO have, for reasons best known to themselves, treated the initiative as a private game of their own. The NGA and the CCSSO haven’t even bothered to inform the public who is chairing these committees, who is on them, why they were chosen, what their credentials are, and why we should have any confidence whatsoever in what they come up with.

One person has announced on his own to the press and to a state department of education that he is chairing the mathematics standards-writing committee. He has not been contradicted by anyone at NGA or CCSSO, so we must assume he’s for real. It turns out he is an English major with no academic degrees in mathematics whatsoever. No one has yet announced on his/her own that he/she is chairing the English standards-writing committee. One wag has already wondered whether this person might be a mathematics major with no academic degrees in English. But it’s possible the sad joke in mathematics is not being repeated in English.

This country deserved better for a project of such national importance.”


Barry Garelick said...

The rumored head of the math standards team is Phil Daro.

concerned said...

Is it true that he does not have a degree in mathematics?

If so, how in the world was this allowed to happen?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is intended to gut the aspects of the NMAP report and the National Reading Report that aren't palatable to what is being taught (or more accurately, not taught) in too many ed schools around the country.

It would also override the content oriented state standards that are regarded as rigorous and enshrine the process oriented language that earns demerits in the Fordham Institute's various rankings of state standards.

Finally it would tend to moot the effectiveness of the accurate info shared among school districts and states on blogs like this one. Bad ideas put into effect at the national level with soothing rhetoric will be harder to defeat.

SteveH said...

Like Catherine, I'm amazed that I'm amazed, even after all of these years.

As far as I can tell, it's all an academic turf thing. Some professors of education have said the same thing; they are in charge, not the university professors.

It would be one thing if they took the position that what they want is best for the majority of students (admit to lower expectations), but they don't do that. They claim that it's better for all.

SteveH said...

"Today we live in a world without borders. To maintain America’s competitive edge, we need all of our students to be well prepared and ready to compete with not only their American peers, but with students from around the world. CCSSO and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) in partnership with Achieve, Inc., ACT, and the College Board have initiated a state-led process of developing and adopting a common core of state standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative)."


If Achieve is involved will they still push their Algebra II requirement? If ACT and the College Board are involved, will they ensure that the material on their tests is in the curriculum?

"An important tenet of this work will be to increase the rigor and relevance of state standards across all participating states; therefore, no state will see a decrease in the level of student expectations that exist in their current state standards."

No decrease? States have a hard enough time with their current low expectations. If it's an attempt at a national standard, does it mean that my state will have math standards at least as good at California or Massachusetts?

Robert Pondiscio said...

The Phil Daro piece appears to be true. Unless he's dressing himself in borrowed robes on the record:

NJ joins effort to draft US math regs

concerned said...

Does Phil Daro have a degree in mathematics or not?

Barry Garelick said...

Phil Daro does not have a degree in mathematics.

Phil Daro appears at about 2:07 in
this YouTube video (which also features Uri Treisman). He is providing advice to teachers in Bellevue, Washington on how to address criticisms from parents--in this case, how to counter the attack against calculator use.

He also features prominently in the "Toolkit for Change" which he helped write. This webpage on how to disarm math warriers is part of the MARS website: Mathematics Assessment Research Service of which he was (perhaps still is?) a prominent player.

SteveH said...

So that's the guy who is heading the math standards team? I've see his "Math Wars Peace Treaty" before. It's a case study in manipulation; argue with generalities to get eveyone to go away while you get to decide on all of the details. It's the old balance trick of math.

The "treaty" is so general that I agree with everything it says. OK. What's next? Hold meetings. OK. What issues are on the table and what issues are off the table? Will this committee of parents and teachers have the power to select a new math curiculum?

Fat chance.

Parents are catching on. It's not about calculators or algorithms or even discovery. It's about ensuring that the mastery part of the "balance" gets done. Everyday Math can't even ensure mastery of the Lattice Method.

concerned said...

Thanks Barry. This is disgusting!

EVERYONE must express their OUTRAGE to NGA and CCSSO!

Subject-area experts MUST LEAD in this effort!

concernedCTparent said...

Letters should be addressed to the following two gentlemen:

Mr. Ray Scheppach
Executive Director
National Governors Association
Hall of the States
444 North Capitol Street
Suite 267
Washington, DC 20001-1512

Mr. Gene Wilhoit
Executive Director
Council of Chief State School Officers
One Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20001-1431

SteveH said...

OK, can anyone (Barry?) help me out. I need a score card? I just came across "The Opportunity Equation" (

"The Carnegie Corporation of New York-Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education is a partnership between Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Princeton-based Institute for Advanced Study to address the concern that the U.S. education systems are not providing students with an adequate education in science, mathematics and technology. Comprised of knowledgeable, distinguished individuals from government, academia, industry, cultural organizations and educators, the Commission was formed to review the current status of science and math in the U.S., identify both successes and failures and provide recommendations for advancing K-12 science, math and technology education."

Endorsing Organizations

Achieve Inc

Achievement First

Alliance for Excellent Education

America’s Choice

American Association of Community Colleges

American Council on Education

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

American Museum of Natural History

America's Promise Alliance

American Association of School Administrators

Annenberg Institute for School Reform

Association of American Colleges & Universities

Association of American Publishers

Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools (BayCES)

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools

Carnegie Corporation of New York

Center for Applied Specialized Technology (CAST)

Center for American Progress

Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin

Civic Mission of Schools

Council for Aid to Education (CAE)

This is one of their action items.

"Participate in the Common Core Standards Initiative to develop fewer, clearer, and higher common standards in mathematics and English language arts"

All of these organizations, but where are the standards actually being set? What are the assumptions? Are the Common Core Standards the main focus of national attention (the CCSSO-NGA initiative), or are there other competing groups?

SteveH said...

"All young Americans should be educated to be 'STEM-capable,' no matter where they live, what educational path they pursue, or in which field they choose to work."

This is from "The Opportunity Equation" site.


That's completely meaningless. If one is STEM-capable, he/she is able to quickly get to a much deeper level of detail than this crap.

I counted about 100 action item bullets at this site. I imagine that they just collected a whole bunch of vague, general tasks with absolutely no idea of their value or level of importance. Guess and check, but they don't even have a mechanism for checking. Well, just throw some money at it.

This is a typical bullet.

"Remove barriers and pro-actively grow and scale effective school models through innovative governance and management arrangements with educational entrepreneurs; integrate with strategic human capital reforms"

This is completely meaningless.

All of this is just not that difficult. Survey all colleges and vocational schools to see exactly what math prerequesites they need for each degree program or technical course. Map them backwards, course, by course, to Kindergarten. If different math paths are created (such as the algebra in 8th grade track and the AP calculus track), list the probabilities of getting into any particular degree program or vocational school due to that choice. Schools have those numbers.

Where is their critical (STEM-like) thinking? Just look at the 6th grade math placement test to see what knowledge and skills are needed to get on the algebra in 8th grade track? That will define the majority of the STEM-prepared versus non-STEM-prepared kids.

Barry Garelick said...

The Carnegie people just had a big roll out meeting yesterday here in DC. I didn't attend but Jerry Dancis did (U of MD, mathematician) and he said pretty much the same thing you did. Vague and meangingless. I notice that the link between university math/science and K-12 is a need for students to have statistics and probability. Steve Wilson of JHU says that mathematicians really don't rank stat and probability very high as something entering freshmen need to know. So I really wish people would get off this statistics/probability bent. There's time for that in college and it's usually taught wrong in high school anyway, as Allison has pointed out.

It's all part of the gravy train. Suddenly it's chic to talk about standards and curriculum. Unfortunately the standards and curriculum will be the same as they ever were. But when people like Sara Mead start pontificating about good curricula, the other talking head pundits, policy wonks and economic rent-seekers will join the chorus line. Whether anything is improved is something else entirely.

Catherine Johnson said...

"When they say calculators, you say technology."

I love it!

Catherine Johnson said...

Subject-area experts MUST LEAD in this effort!

ditto that

SteveH said...

"It's all part of the gravy train."

"gravy train"

I thought of those exact same words.

But is the CCSSO-NGA initiative and the Common Core Standards the current center of focus in the country? States sign on to these things, but what are they agreeing to do? I've been following what's been going on in CT (KTMer's and others have done some great work) regarding an algebra for all project that seems to be at odds with other things that the state has agreed to.

It seems like proposals are flying around and serious money is flowing, but the efforts are all over the place. As Barry says, it's the gravy train.