Professor James Milgram, for over 40 years a full professor of mathematics at Stanford University, and I did a 13-city speaking tour on Common Core throughout California in November. At all of the meetings, Professor Milgram provided a two-page hand-out titled Missing or Delayed in Common Core’s Mathematics Standards—a short version of a 13-page critique he distributed at the time he refused to sign off on Common Core’s standards. Not one of the thousands of parents, school board members, and legislators at these meetings challenged him about anything on this hand-out. (The Modesto Bee estimated about 500 at the meeting in Modesto alone.)
Yet, when speaking without Professor Milgram after distributing (with his permission) his two-page list of missing or delayed mathematics standards in Common Core, along with my own list of flaws in Common Core’s English language arts standards, I have been accused by non-mathematicians of relying on an incompetent mathematician. Why are Common Core’s supporters so desperate to discredit those with orders of magnitude more mathematical knowledge than they have at any educational level? And to do so in such a cowardly fashion.
For example, I was warned by a very angry, self-identified local school board member and former K-12 mathematics teacher at a St. Louis, Missouri meeting in October that Professor Milgram is not “truthful.” I was told in a November e-mail sent to me by a mathematics educator at a Missouri university not to “trust Milgram’s opinions.” I was also told by an employee of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education at a Marshfield, Massachusetts meeting in October that, in contrast to Professor Milgram’s comments, a mathematics professor at Boston College thought highly of Common Core’s standards, and that for every analysis I did, there was another one that found that Common Core’s standards strengthened, not weakened, the high school curriculum.” She also accused me of saying that “the old Massachusetts standards were so good that they couldn’t be improved.”
In response to a follow-up e-mail query from the organizer of the meeting asking for written evidence of her claims, she replied: “Professor Friedberg has not done a paper on the topic but he and other Massachusetts professors of mathematics strongly endorse Common Core’s standards and believe our previous standards were not sufficiently rigorous, didn’t stress mastery or understanding, included too many topics, and were not sufficiently focused. I’m sure Dr. Sandra Stotsky is already familiar with Bill Schmidt’s peer-reviewed study that found the standards comparable to the highest achieving nations.”
Yes, indeed, I am aware of William Schmidt’s study. I am also aware of its fatal methodological deficiencies. As Ze’ev Wurman noted in his review of Schmidt’s study:
“Advocates of Common Core’s mathematics standards claim they are rigorous, reflect college-readiness, and are comparable with those of high achieving countries. The two members of the Common Core Validation Committee with college-level mathematics content knowledge [R. James Milgram and Dylan William] refused to sign off on them, finding them significantly lower than those of high-achieving countries….
Schmidt and Houang’s 2012 Study—the only study that claimed the standards met international expectations—lacks reliable coding of the standards, and uses a variety of visual and statistical strategies to create the illusion that the profile of topics in Common Core’s mathematics standards is, indeed, comparable to the curriculum profile of six high-achieving countries. In fact, their own data suggest that Common Core’s mathematics standards are not at all like those of international high achievers, and that—at least from a statistical point of view—they do not carry any promise of improving American educational achievement.”
Wurman went on to conclude:
“Not only do Common Core’s standards remain unvalidated, but there are now many doubts that they could ever be validated as research-based, rigorous, and internationally competitive. Indeed, there is growing concern that they are far below the level of standards in high-achieving countries. Yet, these standards were officially adopted by over 46 states, national tests are being piloted based on them, textbooks and other curriculum materials have been aligned down to them, and all our seemingly independent indices of academic achievement or potential for college-level work have been or are in the process of being aligned down to them. What should be done?”
It is easy to understand why Common Core’s proponents would be unhappy with criticisms of Common Core’s mathematics standards. Especially when other mathematicians publicly corroborate the thrust of Professor Milgram’s criticisms (for example, the op-ed in The Wall Street Journal by Marina Ratner at the University of California/Berkeley).
But they should be ashamed of making spurious charges to people who do not understand high school mathematics any better than they do. And they should learn to speak directly to mathematicians themselves to try to understand the criticisms.
2) Common Core Informational Forum, St. Louis, Missouri, October 23, 2014. Watch these six 15-minute videos in this order.
4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZvUa4mGGQA. The Q and A is not available on this video of the Marshfield meeting.
5) Email communication from Noel Ashekian, November 4, 2014.
6) Ze’ev Wurman, Common Core’s Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House, Pioneer Institute White Paper #112, April 2014.
7) Marina Ratner. Making Math Education Even Worse. Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2014. http://online.wsj.com/articles/marina-ratner-making-math-education-even-worse-1407283282
If the standards had been created/adopted in accordance with the Missouri Constitution, perhaps there would not be so much vitriol surrounding the new standards. If the standards were not privately owned/copyrighted and could be changed by the state (the 85% states must use), perhaps there would not be so much anger from those concerned about the sovereignty of the standards writing/adoption process and the rule of law. If the standards choice architects would start speaking out in state legislative hearings about the writing and adoption process instead of having multi-million dollar PR campaigns orchestrated by Bill Gates, The US Chamber of Commerce, etc to deliver the message on why untested standards and assessments are now the panacea for all educational ills, there would not be so much ‘misinformation’ out there.
The proponents’ arguments are a classic definition of irony. Proponents of the standards (watch the videos) accuse those objecting to the CCSSI as spreading ‘misinformation’. Regardless of whose academic research the CCSSI group chooses to follow, the basic question should be this: Why are the proponents so strident in supporting an unvalidated set of standards? Let’s list just some of the ‘misinformation’ from the proponents:
- the internationally benchmarked claim has been withdrawn
- no studies can show these theories will produce the intended outcome
- the college ready claim has been shown to make students ready for 2 year colleges, not 4 year colleges as most taxpayers were led to believe (what does ‘globally competitive’ mean to you?)
Another initial point of ‘misinformation’ is that CCSS would not cost Missouri any money. That was from Missouri DESE press release answering a state legislator’s question about the standards creation/adoption that bypassed the legislature. No cost analysis was done (or provided to legislatures and school districts) but DESE requested an additional $26 Million last year for new assessments and the membership for SBAC is an ongoing additional cost. School boards will have to pony up the cost for the new technology mandated by the Initiative. Schools will have to hire lawyers and Chief Privacy Officers as data breaches will be the financial responsibility of the school districts.
Why are some educators supporting an Initiative:
- that has no validity
- depends on the 1% to deliver its claims/theories that are increasingly debunked
- whose choice architects demanded secrecy as to the writing/validation process (and just who was appointed king to appoint such choice architects to direct/develop PUBLIC education)
- contained no cost analysis
- creates an oligarchic structure which holds none of the private NGOs accountable to the public and legislatures
Regarding the adoption/creation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS) structure, just who is spreading ‘misinformation’? Just really who are the ‘misinformed’ in this debate? How can any informed person support any initiative that violates state statutes, the state Constitution, is fallacious/not researched based and may or may not be higher standards that are decided by private NGOs not accountable to the public or legislators?
Where should the name tag of ‘I Am Not A Critical Thinker’ be placed: on these educators/NGOs who refuse to address/acknowledge these questions about the adoption/creation of CCSSI or the people who are paying for this reform and supplying their children for the CCSSI?