kitchen table math, the sequel: Common Core [National Education] Standards

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Common Core [National Education] Standards

I don't agree with Fordham's analysis of Common Core Math Standards. I believe that they are much too weak at the high school level to prepare our children for competitiveness in a global economy. With that said, I thought that readers might be interested to see the Fordham Institute's new report comparing each state's mathematics and ELA standards to Common Core.

The State of State Standards--and the Common Core--in 2010

New York Times Room for Debate Blog, July 21
Will National Standards Improve Education?
[The answer to this question seems to be "NO"]
Equalizing Mediocrity, Sandra Stotsky, University of Arkansas
Common Standards Are Helpful, Richard D. Kahlenberg, Century Foundation
Making a Bad System Worse, Neal P. McCluskey, Cato Institute
At-Risk Children Will Benefit, Michael Goldstein, MATCH Charter School
Uniformity Is Not Equality, Alfie Kohn, author
Understandable, but Wrong, Bruce Fuller, University of California, Berkeley


Bostonian said...

As usual in educational discussions, the role of intelligence is being ignored.

No set of educational standards make sense for both kids with IQs of about 90 (below average, but far from mentally retarded) and IQs of 115 mildly gifted. The first group cannot study at the college level, but many in the second group can.

There are substantial differences in academic achievements in the states, probably reflecting IQ. Look at NAEP results by state. There are more smart people in Massachusetts than West Virginia, in part because the universities and high-tech companies in MA attract lots of smart people, who tend to have smart kids. A set of "Common Core" standards for all states will inevitably be weaker in practice than the standards smarter states could set. There is a political limit to how many students you can flunk and how many schools you can label as failing.

CassyT said...

And here is Jonathan Goodman at providing some analysis: A comparison of proposed US Common Core math standard to standards of selected Asian countries.


palisadesk said...

kids with IQs of about 90 .....cannot study at the college level.

Ah, but they can and do, and go on to get PhDs in educational administration.

As long as they stay in "education" (where much of the course work does not demand more than middle-school-level skills), they are all set. According to the Educational Testing Service, the mean GRE Verbal score for applicants to graduate programs in Educational Administration is 419.

Ponder that for a moment.

It correlates with an IQ of 90. But that's the mean score. Thank about the many applicants whose scores are much lower -- down in the 200's and 300's, to bring the mean down that low.

Ponder, too, the fact that all these applicants already have college degrees or are in their final year.

The good news is, these aren't the teachers in the system. The bad news is, these are the people running the system.

CassyT said...

Colorado Considers How National Common Core Enriches Colorado Academic Standards

And Colorado weighs in.

From 3 page Gap Analysis Report:
Recommended Next Steps
WestEd recommends that the CDE consider whether any nonalignment of content between the CO standards and the CCS are the result of intentional decisions (for example, in determining which specific examples of applications of concepts need to be included in the standards document as opposed to in aligned curriculum guidance documents). The grade level at which certain concepts are introduced and intended to be mastered can have implications for both instruction and assessment, so off‐grade overlap between the two sets of standards should be evaluated carefully.

I haven't read through everything yet...hopefully next week while on vacation.

My favorite so far? P. 29 of the line by line Gap Analysis:

Content Area: Mathematics
Standard: 1. Number Sense, Properties, and Operations

Prepared Graduates: Recognize and make sense of the many ways that variability, chance, and randomness appear in a variety of contexts
Grade Level Expectation: High School

Concepts and skills students master:
3. Systematic counting techniques are used to describe and solve problems

All concepts and skills are then listed with three sub-headings:
Evidence Outcomes, CCS Notes (there are none on this concept) and 21st Century Skills and Readiness Competencies.

Evidence Outcomes: Students can use combinatorics to solve problems in realworld [sic] contexts.

21st Century Skills and Readiness Competencies:
Inquiry Questions:

1. Is the lottery really worth playing?

cranberry said...

Palisadesk, do they get in? After all, I could be an "applicant" to a program in theoretical physics. I shouldn't be accepted, but I would count as an "applicant." Further, if they were to get in, do any students flunk out?

The mean GRE score of graduates would be more useful.

palisadesk said...

Unfortunately, ETS doesn't track long-term outcomes for any of its groups, to the best of my knowledge. But comparing applicants to ed school programs to applicants in theoretical physics is really not a valid comparison.

The key idea to keep in mind is, this is the pool from which graduates in educational administration are drawn -- and it is the lowest pool of *any occupational group* except those going into early childhood education, i.e. daycare.. Also, graduate schools of education accept nearly anyone who has the prerequisite degree(s) and meets whatever criteria apply. Of course some grad schools in education are quite selective, but many, many are not.

Some courses I signed up for at a local, reasonably selective university (and withdrew at the last moment to get my tuition money back) could have been passed by anyone who showed up, smiled a lot and handed in the required posterboard presentation (would be a Power Point now) and did the "jigsawing" group activities. The level of intellectual acumen or reading or math skills was low, low, low. Don't take my word for it, read Lisa Delpit's accounts of teaching in a graduate education program, or Rita Kramer's Ed School Follies Since admission is rarely selective, the applicant pool is similar to the enrolment population.

So whether all of those applicants complete a degree program or not, the fact is they have already completed (or shortly will complete) an undergraduate college degree, and a fair number of them -- and not necessarily the most able -- will get M.Eds or MAs or PhD.s or EdDs and be principals, superintendents, curriculum leaders, co-ordinators and bureaucrats in various roles. And they are not very smart. This doesn't bode well for the "system" generally. I think it's part of the reason why fads are so prevalent in public education.

In various schools and two different (large) districts I've had the opportunity to work with a number of administrators, several superintendents and co-workers who were promoted to higher levels. I can say for certain that the vast majority of these were less well educated and less intellectually acute than the majority of teachers they supervised. I've known some very smart people in educational administration, but they were definitely the rare exceptions.

So while people with an IQ of 90 may not make it to grad school in theoretical physics, or history (Catherine has posted how at NYU grad students need at least a GRE Verbal of 600 to do graduate work), or Classics, or engineering, or business (all fields with far higher mean GRE Verbal score than Ed. Admin.), the world is their oyster if they can be persuaded to go into education and then educational administration.

cranberry said...

It keeps coming back to the schools of education, doesn't it?

Who teaches the courses in the schools of education? Is there a limit on the number of students a graduate school of education can accept, or can the number of enrolled students be increased through the use of adjunct faculty?

If I compare the field of education to the fields of law and medicine, some things jump out at me. In both law and medicine, the leading schools have very high standards of admission, and most respectable schools have firm limits on the number of students they can enroll. This allows the schools to select the best candidates from the applicants. Also, where you receive your degree matters. As far as I can tell, in the public schools, there is not such a rigorous ranking of degrees--it's seen as a requirement. Lastly, in both law and medicine, professional boards can strip the licenses from egregiously bad practitioners.

ChemProf said...

In response to cranberry's question, our ed school is highly regarded locally. On our ed school faculty, there are twice as many adjuncts as permanent faculty (although some adjuncts have been there a long time), and they definitely use that to increase the number of students they can handle. Our administration views the ed school as a cash cow that can help fund the rest of the college, especially as many of their courses are cheap to run, so there is no incentive to turn students away.

cranberry said...

Our administration views the ed school as a cash cow that can help fund the rest of the college, especially as many of their courses are cheap to run, so there is no incentive to turn students away.

That is the heart of the issue, I think. Many critics of the current system point to other countries, in which teachers are drawn from the top of the academic distribution. You will never draw the elite into a professional training program which costs more than it is worth--and that's what "a cash cow that can help fund the the rest of the college" means, in practice. It costs less to run than the students pay in tuition.

What university will kill a cash cow? Limiting enrollment, investing in effective professors, creating a demanding curriculum which imparts necessary knowledge, but which is as short as possible, refusing to certify the incompetent--all of that would cut into the institution's profit. It would radically improve the reputation of the ed schools, but it would be bad for the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

There is another reason schools of education are cash cows. Teachers under union contracts automatically receive more salary (and eventually higher pensions) based on the number of credits they have earned. Ed schools can provide those credits with very little overhead to academic institutions. In exchange for your tuition they ask for very little work and expect little effort for high grades. It is an unholy alliance.

I speak from experience. I was an SAT Merit Scholar, graduated with a B.A. in History from an elite eastern college, and completed a graduate professional program at an Ivy League university. I worked very hard in those programs to earn high grades. I practiced in that profession for 15 years but after having children and a move to a rural area due to my husband's job, I needed to switch professions if I wanted to work.

I decided to obtain a teaching license and a Master's of Education degree. In exchange for two years of Saturday classes and $15,000 in tuition, the license was mine. The courses were drivel and the assignments asinine. Our first term we were all assigned a number so that we could look up our final course grades which were posted on our professor's door. As we crowded around trying to remember what our numbers were so we could see what we had earned, the person at the head of the line informed us that there was no need to fret about remembering our numbers since everybody had earned an A. It was like that for every class, everybody earned As. And yet, not everybody passed the PRAXIS l exams(which test very basic knowledge in math, grammar, science and history) required for the teaching license! Some students were thrilled they were earning As. The rest of us saw through the fraud.

Nearly every private college with an education program in the state where I live (Minnesota) has set up similar satellite "learning communities" housed in school districts around the state to offer graduate credits in education. Teachers with tenure plop down their tuition dollars for an automatic salary increase. The programs are undoubtedly huge revenue producers for colleges.

I have been teaching for 6 years. The only positions I have been able to find are at non-unionized charter schools because I have too many credit hours for a standard district to be able to afford to hire me! I believe I teach my history classes with intellect, passion and rigor. But I use nothing from the two years of classes I was forced to endure for the privilege of obtaining the state required teaching license. The system is broken.

concerned said...

You might look for larger districts in need of teachers for Advanced Placement history courses. In my area, AP and Advanced credit courses(through a university)are always difficult teaching positions to fill.
Best wishes!

Bostonian said...

I think Palisadesk's IQ estimate of 90 for school administrators is far too low. Studies of the IQ threshold for various professions have found teachers to have IQs above average but below that for doctors, lawyers, and engineers.

The analysis at HBD Books seems much more plausible to me:

"For 2004-2007, we see that on the GRE, the test taken by Americans going to graduate school, the average person going for a post graduate degree in education scored 449 on the verbal section and 530 on quantitive reasoning. If we give an average IQ of 112 for those taking the GRE with a 13 point standard deviation, we can estimate education graduate students to have a verbal IQ of 110.6 and a math IQ of 107.4.

That’s a total IQ of around 109, making them not smart enough to understand that the PC garbage fed to them by bureaucrats and PC professors is nonsense.

These are the elite of the educational establishment though. You don’t have to go to graduate school to be a teacher.

We find similar results if we look at scores on the LSAT, the admissions test to law school, for education majors. Education majors averaged 148.9 in 2002-2003. If we give LSAT takers the same average IQ and SD as GRE takers, we end up with an IQ of 109.8.

We should probably knock a point or two off to find the IQ of the average teacher as those that want to go to graduate or law school are likely the elite of the edbiz. I estimate the average IQ of a US primary or secondary school teacher to be 107.

This is why common sense can’t get through to the educrats. Even if only an elite make policy, say those one standard deviation over the mean of the profession, the IQ of the movers and shakers is around 125. And then you have to figure that the vast majority of teachers are women and many of the most intelligent won’t have much ambition to go anywhere in their careers. Notice how many of the top level bureaucrats in Washington are men compared to education majors in general. The Harvard grads who get appointed head of the Department of Education are smarter but have no daily experience with anybody close to average.

Your average powerful educrat probably has an IQ of 120. No wonder they’re not reading Sailer and seeing the error of their ways. Meanwhile the top people in law, engineering and business are certainly all 130+.

If you’re a guy who has ambition, wants power, has an IQ over 115, is willing to mouth PC platitudes and wants to meet a lot of women, get a PhD in education."

concerned said...

Fluid Intelligence vs. Crystallized Intelligence:

Test of Fluid Intelligence:

palisadesk said...

The correlation between a GRE Verbal score of 419 and an IQ of 90 is not mine. I had to search to find correlation data between the Verbal score alone (rather than the composite of verbal+quantitative), but I thought that was a more reliable IQ indicator. Psychometrists agree that the mathematics score on the SAT, and the Quantitative Reasoning score on the GRE, are more susceptible to schooling effects and are less reflective of IQ, whereas the verbal score (on both tests, pre-recentering) has a very high correlation with the WAIS and the Stanford-Binet. The correlation given for a verbal score of 419 was a range, something like 85-95; I took the median, 90, for my example. However you slice it, this is low for "leaders" in our system. Consider, too, that many of those who went into the graduate programs in Ed. Admin. scored much lower than that.

However, Bostonian apparently missed my point, but inadvertently corroborated it. S/he cites data that applicants for graduate school in education (not educational administration) score a mean GRE verbal of 449 -- 30 points above those going into educational administration. This supports my contention that, as a group, educational; administration wannabees are a good bit less cognitively able than the teachers they aim to supervise.

Some of his/her other data points are slightly off: an IQ of 115 is not "borderline gifted," it is solid average. Most categorizations of "gifted" require at least another standard deviation above the mean, or an IQ of 130, where still others require two standard deviations above the mean, or an IQ of 145+.

IQ's of 90-115 are considered average (within one SD of the mean), 75-90 is low average. 60-75 is mild cognitive disability (used to be called educable mentally retarded). On the higher side, 115-130 is high average, 130-145 is superior, 145+ is gifted, 160+ is highly gifted (or "severely gifted" as one wag in our gifted education dept. used to say). There is data on mean IQ's for various professional groups -- physicians average around 115-120, lawyers slightly higher, scientists higher still.

However, all IQ's should be taken with some healthy doses of scepticism. After all Richard Feynmann had an IQ of 124, but no one would seriously contend that he was not a genius. Either Watson or Crick of DNA fame had, I read somewhere, an IQ of 109. Robert Sternberg bombed a grade school IQ test and this, paradoxically, led him to a career in studying intelligence. Whatever one thinks of his theories of the triarchic model and so on, it is unlikely that he has subnormal intelligence.

Public education is not a field led or dominated by people with a high level of cognitive ability, even though there are individuals in the field who do have a high degree of cognitive ability.

K9Sasha said...

I doubt that Richard Feynman's stated IQ of 124 is correct. His son's IQ was over 200 - off the charts. I went to school with the son and asked him about it once.

palisadesk said...

K9Sasha, my source for Feynman's IQ (and his son's) is his biography, Genius : The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Glieck. In the book it reports that when the school authorities told Feynman his son's IQ was "only" 124, he chortled with glee and said something like, "Just like his dad!"

Given that IQ scores used to be guarded more securely than Fort Knox, I suspect Carl Feynman was not told his IQ score (whatever it was) and he may have been having a little fun at your expense. The most-used IQ measures don't even *have* a potential score of "over 200" -- the ceiling of both the WISC/WAIS and the Stanford-Binet at the time ranged from 150-185, depending on the version of the test used. Even now in most school systems, parents are not told the exact IQ of their child, or the subtest scores; they will only be given the range in which the child falls, for instance, low average, superior, gifted.

The moral of the story is to keep a healthy sense of scepticism about IQ scores. Clearly a score of 124 did not predict Richard Feynman's intellectual acumen or accomplishment, nor those of his son. And as for scoring "off the charts," yours truly did that . Of course I didn't find this out until after I had graduated from college and obtained copies of my school records. There is no way in the world I am two standard deviations smarter than, or even equal to, either of the Feymans. A genius I definitely am not.

IQ scores do reflect some types of intellectual ability, but obviously an incomplete set. And they do also correlate closely with SAT and GRE scores (I got a perfect score on the SAT verbal once and the GRE verbal twice), which was my point in referring to the low mean scores of people in educational administration. IQ is a useful bit of data but it is definitely not the whole story of intellectual ability. We should resist the temptation to think it defines the parameters for any particular individual, either positively or negatively.

Another example, from the other end of the spectrum, would be a high school friend of mine who I'll call Marnie. Marnie was a hard worker, the only child of working-class immigrant parents who wanted her to go to college. She worked her buns off in high school and rarely got better than a D+. Her SAT scores were very low -- math in the 400's, verbal in the 300s. Her goal was to work in medical research and technology, but she needed a college education for that. She couldn't get into the state university with those marks and scores; she went to a junior college on a part time basis and I lost track of her. About 10 years later, I was in D.C.'s Sibley Hospital to have my tonsils out, and a white-coated stranger appeared in my room. "Remember me?" she said. It was Marnie. She had completed junior college successfully, taken upgrading courses, and gone on to complete a BSc. She was working as a lab technician in the hospital and saw a blood sample with my name come through. She told me she was soon quitting the hospital to work on her Master of Science degree. A few years later, I saw that she was working at a Boston area medical research lab, and subsequent to that she was made a department head. No one would have predicted any of this from her school record, SAT scores or IQ as a child.

"Intelligence" is a complex construct about which we are still learning. We have ways of measuring some aspects of it, but our understanding -- and measurement -- is incomplete. What goes into making "genius" is still up for debate, and IQ is no predictor of that.