In the letter, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and U.S. Representative John Kline ask that the following questions be explored:

1. What processes and criteria does the Department of Education use to approve, deny, renew, and revoke states’ ESEA waiver applications?

2. What changes have states made in order to meet the department’s conditions for the approval and renewal of a waiver?

3. What issues have selected states, including states that have not applied for a waiver, had waiver applications rejected, and had approved waivers revoked, faced in deciding whether to apply for and implement an ESEA waiver, such as time and resources used to produce waiver and waiver renewal applications and the possible need for legislative changes?

4. To what extent are states able to implement accountability and evaluation systems consistent with existing state laws and policies? What barriers exist for states and districts in adapting accountability and evaluation systems to their unique needs.?

These are certainly good questions for the GAO to explore. I hope they explore them well. I hope they also look into the U.S. Department of Education putting conditions on waivers without congressional authorization.

Should the federal government be telling the state governments what to do or should the states be telling the federal government what to do?

Washington state is mentioned in both the press release and the letter for recently having its waiver revoked.

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Table of Contents includes two types of standards. First listed are Standards for Mathematical Practice. Second listed are Standards for Mathematical Content. Before we explore the Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP), let’s make a distinction between the SMP and Content standards. The SMP are process standards. They are a part of the CCSS. Most states have had similar process standards. As process standards, the SMP are probably as good as any others.

This table comes from slide 43 of a presentation at the Washington State School Directors Association conference in Nov. 2011. There are over 300 content standards in K-8. This above table presents one content standard and one of the Standards for Mathematical Practices.

Here are the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Model with mathematics.

Use appropriate tools strategically.

Attend to precision.

Look for and make use of structure.

Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

The Common Core State Standards lead off with Standards for Mathematical Practice.

The introduction to the Standards reads:

The standards for mathematical practice rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding (comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations and relations), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately), and productive disposition (habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy).

To the casual observer, these words sound reassuring. For those who have been involved in the debate over how best to teach mathematics for the last two decades, this paragraph is extremely disturbing. NCTM’s process standards have been interpreted and implemented so as to downplay the importance of procedures and algorithmic involved in the debate over how best to teach mathematics for the last two decades, this efficiency in the name of “understanding”. It also favors finding more than one way to arrive at an answer that usually can be arrived at very simply in one way, and of eschewing word problems that provide the data that students will need to solve the problem in the belief that finding the data by themselves builds better problem solvers. We believe that the allegiance to the principles of the NCTM standards and ideology in Adding it Up will manifest itself in a student-centered, inquiry-based approach to math. We set out below attributes of the standards that are particularly weak and which lend themselves to such educational philosophy. As such, these standards in our opinion will diminish, not enhance, the mathematical proficiency and knowledge of students in K-12.

Possibly a little too esoteric but the concerns expressed regarding these standards manifesting in more student-centered, inquiry based approach to math are being realized.

Let’s take a close look at one of the SMP.

SMP 6. . Attend to precision.This sounds like they are calling for computational accuracy. One needs to look further and detect the nuance of emphasis in the narrative that gives more information about the meaning of this standard. Here is that narrative:

Mathematically proficient students try to communicateprecisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other. By the time they reach high school they have learned to examine claims and make explicit use of definitions. (bold and color added for emphasis)

I have bolded the only phrase addressing accurate calculations. This does not come until the fifth sentence of the narrative. In the first sentence, “try to communicate precisely” is given a position of greater importance. While I am glad the writers thought to add “calculate accurately” into this standard, this standard appears to have more to do with attending to communicating with precision than calculating with precision or calculating accurately. Seven sentences… six related to communication, one about calculating accurately. How important is calculating accurately? What if the process of an inaccurate calculation is communicated precisely? And are you comfortable driving over that bridge or flying in that plane knowing that the engineers had great ability at communicating precisely about their inaccurate calculations?

The focus on communication was a problem with the old Washington math standards and other state standards influenced by the NCTM standards. This looks much the same, just a tad more sophisticated. Hey, it sure does sound great though. I’ll take a dozen… oh, there are only 8… that’s okay, I’ll still take a dozen.

Write or Wrong? The focus on communication in the SMP may, in part, be the source or justification for the emphasis in asking students to explain the process they use. The ability to explain may be given greater importance than getting the right answer. For many math problems, the work students show should be explanation enough and is a great indicator of understanding. There has been a shift in math it seems. Answers to straight-forward math problems used to be either right or wrong based on their being a correct answer to the problem. That no longer seems to be the case and an answer is deemed to be right if a group of students reach consensus about it.

Publishers of poor math textbooks/programs, professional development programs, and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium are emphasizing the Standards for Mathematical Practices (SMP) rather than the content standards. This emphasis on the SMP will influence local school district math textbook adoptions. The misguided but deliberate emphasis on the SMP rather than the content standards simply renders the CCSS as set of complex standards akin to the NCTM standards. The SMP flew in under the radar and few people were concerned about them. This emphasis will not serve the students across the country well.

The emphasis placed on the Standards for Mathematical Practice supports a constructivist approach. This approach is typical of “reform” math programs to which many parents across the country object. Programs like Investigations and Everyday Math are able to claim they address the CCSS SMP. Publishers of reform programs are aligning their programs with the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice. The adoption and implementation of the CCSS will not necessarily improve the math programs being used in many schools.

The emphasis on the SMP is driving professional development, textbook development, textbook selection and adoption, and assessment development. As a result of this emphasis, the SBAC may resemble a super sophisticated WASL rather than an actual assessment of student math skills.

Many math professional development programs for school administrators and teachers are focusing on the SMP. What is taking place in your local school district?

A couple of years ago I attended a meeting of math teachers at a middle school. None of the teachers had yet heard of the Common Core State Standards. The school principal was in attendance and was excited to share information about a seminar he attended the previous week. This principal distributed a one-sheet handout with the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice to the math teachers. He told the math teachers that these were the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and this is what the school and the district will begin to focus on for math instruction. He gave no mention or indication of any awareness of content standards. These Standards for Mathematical Practice are what the school leadership has been told are the math standards and it is what leadership is telling teachers. Furthermore, administrators will evaluate teachers’ ability to deliver instruction on the SMP. Are the administrators in your local schools receiving similar training? For those who find the CCSS math content standards to their liking, and possibly an improvement over their old or current state math standards, I urge you and everyone else to beware of the deliberate emphasis on the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Here are links to a couple of articles related to the emphasis on the SMP.

We have now seen at least three distinct styles of rebranding of the Common Core State Standards. There may be other styles as well as variations of one or more of these styles. You will likely recognize at least one, if not all three of these styles. It is possible your state matches one of these styles.

Styles of Common Core Rebranding

Alabama Style—simply remove the name Common Core State Standards and slap on a new brand name of your own choice. Leave the standards the same, of course. There are many variations of this style that may include, among other possibilities, adding or altering some standards.

Alaska Style—don’t adopt the Common Core State Standards. Do adopt a set of standards that are basically identical to the Common Core but deny you have adopted the Common Core. You know the saying, “Do it, but say you didn’t.”

Indiana Style—appear to pensively develop your own state standards with a superficial attempt involving people from within state in an incestuous process resulting in an inferior bastardized version of the Common Core.

While not a style of rebranding, some states have been extremely creative and clever and simply call the standards the Common Core State Standards.

Why rebrand? Cattle rustlers in the old west altered, or rebranded, the brands of stolen cattle. Rustling cattle was a hangin’ offense, often dispensed by vigilante justice. Rebranding of livestock may occur when there is a change in ownership of the livestock or the owners have changed their brand. The CCSS is still owned by the NGA/CCSSO so they haven’t changed hands. If states rebrand the CCSS should they be considered standards rustlers trying to hide from the public the fact they have stolen the CCSS? How would Tom Horn and Ed Cantrell handle this if they were standards detectives on the education range today?

The NGA/CCSSO/corporate/federal education reform trust is attempting to rebrand the CCSS with an expensive public relations campaign. The success of their rebranding effort is doubtful since their initial branding permanently burned into the hide of the standards and everything related to them. The distinctive smell of burning flesh will linger for a long time to come and many more parents, community members, voters, and taxpayers are beginning to recognize the repulsive smell.

Similar rebranding is taking place with Common Core assessments. Some states are using SBAC or PARCC and are calling the assessment by the same name as their previous state assessment. Some states are riding sidesaddle and have contracted with other assessment vendors who may be subcontracted by SBAC or PARCC (or possibly both) or who will be using their test items. Sounds like an intricate web of deceit

Common Core Seminar Tuesday, August 5 6:30-8:30pm Inside Spa Zenaida (north end)
23801 E. Appleway Ave.
Liberty Lake, Wa 99019

It’s time to bring back local decision-making in education, protect the privacy of our children and let great teachers do their job without the interference of experimental and controlling reform.

It is a beautiful space, you will need to BRING PILLOWS OR A CAMP CHAIR to sit on! There will be a handful of chairs for those who need one, free parking and no stairs. This meeting is for adults only. Please indicate if you can attend, as there is limited seating room.

Hosted by Heidi Moses. Her Facebook page can be found by searching for “Lost Tools of Liberty.” (Note: This event is not sponsored by Spa Zenaida). Please contact heidi@joyfulpathcoaching.com if you have questions.

Common Core: Standardizing Our Children Saturday, August 23
1:00-3:30pm La Belle Vie Event…

Common Core Seminar Tuesday, August 5 6:30-8:30pm Inside Spa Zenaida (north end)
23801 E. Appleway Ave.
Liberty Lake, Wa 99019

It’s time to bring back local decision-making in education, protect the privacy of our children and let great teachers do their job without the interference of experimental and controlling reform.

It is a beautiful space, you will need to BRING PILLOWS OR A CAMP CHAIR to sit on! There will be a handful of chairs for those who need one, free parking and no stairs. This meeting is for adults only. Please indicate if you can attend, as there is limited seating room.

Hosted by Heidi Moses. Her Facebook page can be found by searching for “Lost Tools of Liberty.” (Note: This event is not sponsored by Spa Zenaida). Please contact heidi@joyfulpathcoaching.com if you have questions.

Common Core: Standardizing Our Children Saturday, August 23
1:00-3:30pm La Belle Vie Event Center
18507 E. Appleway Ave.
Greenacres, Wa 99016

The Common Core standards and their implementation is just the tip of the iceberg. Come find out what’s underneath. Hosted by CURE Washington (Citizens United for Responsible Education) and Washington State Against Common Core.
Speakers:
Joyce Feiss
Sharon Hanek
Marda Kirkwood
Breann Treffry
Laurie Rogers

IN PUYALLUP:

Understanding Common Core: A Parent’s Perspective Saturday, August 9th 3:00 p.m. South Hill Library
15420 Meridian East
Puyallup, WA 98375

The community is welcome to attend a special presentation by Sharon Hanek on a parent’s perspective of Common Core. Topics include implications of the standards on curriculum, SBAC assessments, data collection, Special Education concerns, and much more. Questions are welcomed in a relaxed environment to help those who are concerned about the new changes.

IN EDMONDS:

Understanding Common Core Monday, August 11
6:30-8:30pm Snohomish County PUD Auditorium – Edmonds
21018 Hwy 99
Edmonds, Wa

Speakers:
Sharon Hanek – Research Mom
Sharon has spent the past decade researching and analyzing bills, working with legislators, and testifying on issues related to budget, taxes, transportation, and education. Recently she combined her interest in politics, financial background, and research skills to form a public policy research company. Her focus is to reach out to citizens across Washington state and help them become politically active citizens. Research Mom covers topics on education, global agendas, and activism.

J.R. Wilson – Truth in American Education
J.R. has 25+ years experience working in public education as an elementary classroom teacher, curriculum consultant, staff development coordinator, and elementary principal. As a team member he has been involved in writing science and math standards as well as reviewing math standards. He has conducted workshops and classes for teachers and administrators on technology in the classroom, math and science education, and effective teaching practices.

RSVP to rwible@frontier.com

IN KENT:

Take Action: South King County Against Common Core Thursday, August 14 6:00-8:00pm King County Library
220 4th Ave. S.
Kent, Wa 98032

It’s time to come together and come up with an action plan to rid our schools of CCSS. Whether you know a lot about common core are just learning about it, join us in coming up with an Action plan. Learn who our legislators and school board members are and how to get in contact with them. We’ll also be coming up with a way to inform more parents and families about the truth behind CCSS and the devastating affect it has on our children. Learn how to opt your child out of high stakes testing.