Fail: Market Reality VS Common Core

Currently, I have children in a charter school as well as a traditional school.  I have been very happy with the math program and flexibility/fluidity offered in the charter school with various subjects.  The traditional school has been a reasonably good fit for my other child with the exception of the Common Core portion.

This whole year, despite still getting a good grade, my son has been struggling with math, has not gained a real understanding of key concepts, and we’ve been frustrated with the program ourselves. We couldn’t figure out why things were so unnecessarily difficult and, just this week, we found out the school has implemented the Common Core math program. Since then, I have talked to other parents in the neighborhood  (and teachers) and heard the exact same concerns from them.

The program jumps from one concept to another unrelated concept, lacks foundation building, lacks review of the concepts they completed (they don’t see what they just learned a few weeks ago). It is the worst math learning program I’ve ever seen. I’ve had to teach my son the “right” way to do some of the problems because the way he was taught to do them was overly complex and turned simple things into a convoluted mess to get the same answer. The resulting lack of foundation knowledge to apply these critical math concepts has lead my wife and I to get some math books for him to go through this summer to actually gain a foundation and understand the concepts.

During the parent-teacher conferences, his teacher also expressed (politely, of course) frustrations with the lack of review and problem solving concept issues and is doing her best to incorporate reviews whenever she can. Her concerns about retention and application extend to the whole class.

After finding out that Common Core math was being used, I have begun looking into it more and have some serious concerns about Common Core and what it means for my children (and all children in the public education system); particularly, related to preparing realizing the full potential of current students when they enter the labor force.

The strength of the charter school and the ability to choose educational programs (including traditional schools) to fit the child will be significantly constricted by Common Core.  The program is a top-down approach that effectively dictates what math/reading etc programs will be used and destroys the ability of schools (charter and otherwise) to offer their own unique programs or tailor curriculum to the students they serve.  It destroys the small amount of educational choice we have.  It is clear that one-size-fits-all approaches never truly “fit all” and significant numbers fall through the cracks.  This is also reflected in the marketplace.

Schools are supposed to provide a basis for students to enter and compete in a broadening marketplace with a premium in innovation.  The marketplace has consistently encouraged and delivered customizable solutions to consumers.  Consumers are not interested in on-size-fits all products they must adapt to – the expectation is that products should adapt to the individual.  This can be seen with the thousands of apps, software programs, food choices, brands, electronics, vehicles…virtually every consumer good is pushed to being able to be customized beyond small groups and clear down to the individual.

Common Core is, at it’s essence, a one-size-fits-all program that dictates what and how subjects will be taught.  In that respect, it absolutely fails to acknowledge the market demanding customization.  Besides constricting educational innovation to preclude delivery of the most effective tools to the individual student, Common Core will necessarily result in significant numbers of students falling through the cracks when the boilerplate math/reading/other program does not fit them.  Furthermore, other students, while passing, will not meet their full potential without the ability to find the best fit.

Common Core fails to acknowledge the uniqueness of each child and will be a blow educationally and economically to children.  It has already set back my child who now needs “math home school” this summer in order to regain a foundation.  That is unacceptable.

UPDATE: An excellent personal experience essay from a teacher working on their Educaion Policy PhD.

UPDATE 2: Utah State Senator’s Weiler and Dayton have written on Common Core.  Senator Weiler’s (What’s the deal with “Common Core”?) is detailed and received supportive comments from both sides (Dixie Allen on the State Board of Ed and Christel Swasey) – I highly recommend reading his post. Senator Dayton’s (Thoughts on NCLB & the Common Core) is brief but discusses the funding carrot link related to No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top and Common Core.

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18 thoughts on “Fail: Market Reality VS Common Core

  1. Common core describes learning outcomes and goals. Teaching methods and materials to achieve those outcomes are determined by individual schools and classroom teachers. For those not familiar with exactly what the Common Core Math Standards contain can go to this link:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.corestandards.org%2Fassets%2FCCSSI_Math%2520Standards.pdf&ei=sAiNUa3uBYGpiQLQyoGgDQ&usg=AFQjCNEa1P_OgFpHjvIrUFJ48n_yTcuXVg&sig2=qgV7Y-PjPGkY0K0y5GqsHw

    • He who controls the purse strings and detailed standards and the tests controls the curriculum. If it were not so, why then are we dealing with “Common Core math”? Teachers must teach to the test which is also part of common core or the school will receive a failing grade. Common Core did not originate locally – it was pushed as a federal funding “carrot” with Race to the Top. The standards are centrally dictated and not locally negotiable (only 15% of additional standards are allowed, not a deviation from the dictated standards), there is no flexibility – the antithesis of the marketplace.

    • Please look at the linked site which advocates for Common Core and lists off its standards. Pay close attention to the detail of the standards and the examination requirements. As I noted, these were not locally created and as adopted can not be altered (only 15% may be added). Ultimately, these items dictate what is taught in the classroom and drive curriculum (hence publishers etc producing materials specifically for Common Core). It restricts adaption and provides a one-size-fits-all approach for the entire nation (Common Core is intended to be adopted by the entire country).

      I would also highly encourage folks to read the detailed post written by Senator Weiler as well as Senator Dayton’s post which briefly discusses the funding carrot related to No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, and Common Core. Senator Weiler’s post is excellent and received supportive comments from both sides (Dixie Allen on the State Board of Ed and Christel Swasey, an educator and opponent of Common Core).

      Both Senators Weiler and Dayton’s posts are linked above in the “Update 2” in the body of the main post.

  2. That link is not to the Utah State Office of Education’s page but to the same Common Core advocacy site (run by Common Core developers who have a vested interest in seeing their program adopted). It is the same site I previously suggested people look at to see the opposing view along with the specific standards which must be adhered to. I will, again, suggest they look at it and pay close attention to the specificity and exam requirements which will indeed drive curriculum as schools will be evaluated thereon. It is also notable that English texts are recommended to be more technical (with a decrease in classics).

    Links provided on this post have covered pro-Common Core sites to State Senator’s detailed evaluation to the leading opposition site in Utah (“What Is Common Core”). I’m not affraid of discussion.

    As far as “fear” goes, I’m not the one engaging a false flag attack. I am entitled to my evaulation of a decision which will have a direct impact on my children. This is especially important as it reduces flexibility I have to choose the school with the best curriculum for my children (if all are the same, kids fall through the cracks in the one-size-fits all system). Raising concerns, is far from “negativity”, it is something I appreciate from either side of a debate. It appears, that someone else is fearful of another questioning the value of a program they like and has, thus, resorted to a link of attack.

  3. The link provided is from this site: http://www.uen.org/commoncore/ and of course it goes to questions and answers about the common core curriculum by those experts with the most knowledge about the subject. The “fear” I refer to is the suspicion that comes through in your comments that some “outside forces” are trying to impose their ideas and concepts on the children of Utah. The implication is that these forces are sinister in that their goal is to take away the freedom and control Utah’s parents have over what their children learn and in what order they learn it. On one hand there are state governors, university education specialists, boards of education, experienced educators at all levels who have done studies both here and abroad and working in collaboration for many years have come up with a set of educational standards that provide much needed uniformity in our nation’s schools. On the other hand you have presented Margret Dayton, Mike Lee, three Utah mothers, and yourself as experts on the other side finding fatal flaws in this program. It seems a bit arrogant to me that you set yourself apart as knowing more that the professionals and specialists who designed this program after studying successful curriculum for years both here and abroad.

    Anyone can take the accomplishments of others and find fault if they look hard enough. Persons who do this seldom do the work it takes to achieve their own accomplishments, but derive a perverse sense of superiority in finding their perceived negative aspects of what others have created. Those who practice this are said to exhibit “negativity”.

    I have no desire to waste time arguing this issue with you. I have simply been presenting to the reader the facts against which to weight your expressed OPINIONS. As a former educator, I would be happy to discuss the specific mathematics curriculum being taught your student to whom you referred to. As such you would need to provide the grade level, the specific learning outcomes, and the exercises assigned to meet those outcomes. You could then identify your concerns with specific items in the math program being taught to your child and provide your specific changes to the curriculum that would rectify the faults inherent in the adopted core curriculum standards.

  4. UEN is not the USOE – it is a separate group that has a partnership with the USOE. That still doesn’t change the fact that the site linked to is the advocacy site for Common Core.

    The Governor’s Association you refer to is an NGO not an official government office/agency. It is also notable that Governors must work through their legislatures representing citizens before enacting laws – they do not rule by executive decree. Furthermore, I will never cede my independent thought nor my responsibilities as a parent to panels of experts. I would not expect such from anyone else either. Experts are fallible (and have their own biases) and their recommendations need not be taken as doctrine that must not be criticized.

    I would certainly hope anyone in technology, science, business, and, especially, education would dissuade anyone from questioning research and/or conclusions. That is what brings innovation and reverses bad decision (no matter how honest the intent may have been). I think one would be hard pressed to count all the expert conclusions found to be lacking and/or outright wrong in education, let alone other fields, in world history. The market, especially business, is stating that they are concerned critical thinking is declining and graduates seem content with a cookbook approach. You seem to advocate for such when you attack me (and others I’ve mentioned) for raising our concerns rather than just being quiet and letting the experts tell us what to do.

    I did not state anything about the “sinister” goals of those pursuing common core. You used the term not I. I factually stated that the program was not locally developed.

    As I noted earlier, you engage in an attack and now start to drop insults. I would never judge a parent as “arrogant” for sharing concerns regarding their child. Furthermore, the tone of your final post is very condescending towards parents who have experienced Common Core Math and know their children far, far better than any expert. I’m quite sure the three mothers (two of whom are educators) care quite a bit about their children and have taken a large amount of time and effort to inform themselves about the subject – I believe their motives to be sincere.

    Edit: I looked at the comment again…where did I ever mention Mike Lee? I assume you meant Todd Weiler.

    • Do note also that the main problem (one-size-fits-all) that is the focus of my blot post remains. There is no local control over the standards we can only add (not adjust)15% to the standards.

  5. I just wanted to share what James Milgram, the only math professor on the common core validation committee, said about why he refused to sign off on the adequacy of the standards. He said: “I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.” This is posted here: http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/tag/jim-milgram/

  6. I note with interest your refusal to discuss specifics, but instead regurgitating your vague “one size fits all”, “no local control”, and “can add only 15%” complaints. That speaks volumes about your true understanding of the program. My offer stands to discuss specifics of the math curriculum in your child’s grade.

  7. Er…those items are the crux of the problems I see with the program – no room for adaption/flexibility. You never addressed those items but just posted links to your website of choice without identifying a specific portion to address those or other concerns but vaguely saying to go look at the site and all will be answered. It isn’t at all vague that those adopting common core are constrained to follow it and relinquish the ability to change the standards (and, thereby, curriculum) to fit their situations.

    As for the math, thanks for the offer but there is no way I’m going to discuss the specific issues my child faces on the internet (open to all) with a perfect stranger – I have no idea if you are or were even a math teacher. No way am I going to share that sort of information.

    Christel, thanks for posting the comment regarding math. I think it is going to continue to be an issue for many parents who have to face the common core-centered instruction program.

  8. My first post read: “Common core describes learning outcomes and goals. Teaching methods and materials to achieve those outcomes are determined by individual schools and classroom teachers.” That is called flexibility. Changing the standards would defeat the entire purpose of the program. Curriculum that is different from grade to grade and state to state is the problem the Common Core was devised to fix. Judging by your statements, you would “fix” common core by reverting to the problem and allow individuals to change the standards (dumb down?) to fit their situations.

    I didn’t ask to discuss your child’s issues in his/her math program. I invited you to discuss the curriculum that you object to. Fear of doing this has nothing to do with sharing private information and everything to do with exposing the fact that you do not understand the math curriculum you strongly object to well enough to discuss it with a “total stranger”.

  9. You see local control of what is taught as a problem and “dumbing down”; you seem to feel local control means parents will push schools to ease curriculum/standards and crank out unqualified children – that has, certainly not been my experience. This local control also allows schools to offer different programs (such as we’ve seen in charter schools). What you perceive as a problem I see as the freedom for local schools and communities have the means of altering and customizing what they will teach and focus on in a given year/grade – especially with the constantly changing marketplace we live in.

    I have noted the curriculum I and others have seen our children struggle (and lose ground with) is the “Common Core aligned curriculum” I described in my post (Mr. Shuls describes similarities in his as well) and my child’s teacher also noted her concerns (also stated in the post). It is something I am talking to the district about.

    You continue with your line about “fear” in a thinly veiled attempt to personally label, discredit, and demean someone you disagree with. I don’t fear you; I don’t trust you – I don’t know who you are. Are you even a credentialed math teacher? Sorry, I prefer to keep working through this (as I stated) with the teacher and the district not with some random commenter.

  10. Nice evasion Rattler. You have been called on your B.S. since you can’t/won’t discuss in detail what you object to in the Common Core Standards. Here’s a hint, they are quite similar to the Utah Core Curriculum that has been in place for several years without a peep of protest from conservatives like yourself.

    • Oh please. I answered your questions (noted the curriculum issues in the post) and you refused to answer mine. My post was about applying a central set of standards to all schools and denying them flexibility in a world that puts a premium on it – that is the problem with Common Core. You were never able to refute that – you just resorted to snark and condescension and then you wonder why I don’t want to share my child’s specific personal struggle with you. I’ll stick with his teacher and the District Math rep who are helpful.

      After a quick bit of digging, I can guess why you didn’t want to answer both my questions asking if you were a math teacher. From what I can tell you were a music teacher…so, yeah, that would be another reason why I’m not going to delve into the specifics of my child math with you.

      On Wed, May 15, 2013 at 7:27 AM, Utah Rattler

  11. You are afraid to discuss specifics of the Common Core Math Curriculum that you find fault with on a public forum. Period! Your excuses are getting more frivolous all the time. If you knew what you were talking about, you would welcome a debate—even with a lowly “music teacher”.

    Every subject has a well defined and specific set of concepts that must be mastered in order to know and understand that subject. True, some subjects expand as knowledge advances, but grade school and high school math concepts have been codified and constant for many years. Insisting that there be flexibility in what is taught to have a basic understanding of mathematics is nonsense. There is flexibility built into the program as far as teaching methods, materials, sequencing, and methods of testing. That is as it should be, but to argue for flexibility in what concepts are taught as part of a subject demonstrates an ignorance of the subject matter at hand and of education as a whole.

    This all goes back to the conservative fear-based notion that if anything is created without “local control” then it must somehow be flawed or have a sinister motive. Ask yourself what you are afraid of where Common Core Curriculum is concerned? Is it the fact that this curriculum will be “common” to all of the states in which it is adopted? Is it the fact that it did not originate in Utah (the center of your world)? Or is it the fact that it is supported by the Obama administration? Fear-based negativity with no clear specific factual argument is all I have read in this thread so far.

  12. Heh. You keep coming back to some “fear” and “sinister motive”. As noted several times I didn’t question motives (you keep trying to put words in my mouth to fit your agenda) and I have the right to question the value of a new unproven program that takes control over standards (and, ultimately, curriculum) away from local school area (and parents).

    For the fifth (or so) time, the concern I have is that the stakeholders lose any say and control. Of course, any standard is going to define concepts that need to be understood that is a nonsequitur. The fact you wish to ignore is that these standards can not be altered or amended on the local/state level and the more bureaucracy involved, the harder and longer it is to change even if there is a consensus. You may not care about it but as a parent, I most definitely do especially if they are found to be lacking.

    I really don’t care if the standards came from Hawaii or Georgia etc as long as Districts and States retained the ability to alter them as they pleased rather than being monetarily pushed into adopting a boilerplate set they can’t alter. Utah is hardly the center of my world (yet another false assumption you make about me)…I grew up and was educated in several foreign countries with very different school systems/curricula.

    Do also note, that this issue transcends political parties causing rifts in both parties’ constituencies. And yes, frequent standardized tests are a key part of Common Core.

    Finally, I find it telling that you inadvertently admit in your last paragraph that Common Core will ultimately drive “curriculum”. I will, however, agree with you on one point: “I have no desire to waste time arguing this issue with you”. You are firmly, albeit condescendingly, set on a centrally controlled standards while I advocate for as much local control as possible. That is an impasse we are not going to overcome.

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