Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Common Core: Just Standards or really a Curriculum?

One of the big myths that Common Core supporters will tell you is that Common Core is just standards and that they don't dictate to schools and teachers what to teach.  Let's examine this claim and see if it is really true.

This article perpetuates that myth.  The author links to ~note that the link is not correct~ one of the math standards for 2nd grade as an example.  Here is the correct link by the way.

For example, the Standards require second graders to know that “100 can be thought of as a bundle of ten tens—called a ‘hundred,’” but curriculum dictates the textbook, or teaching methodology, or philosophy used to teach that skill. 

If one looks at all of the 2nd grade math standards that cover Number and Operations in Base 10, one also sees this.

Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method. Understand that in adding or subtracting three-digit numbers, one adds or subtracts hundreds and hundreds, tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose or decompose tens or hundreds.

What the heck are concrete models or drawings?  And up to 1000?  What does that even look like?  Glad you asked.  Here is a 3rd grader showing us what is looks like.  Now grant it, she is in 3rd grade so she will be showing us numbers above 1,000.  Are you ready?

And what does it mean to compose or decompose tens or hundreds?  It means breaking down numbers into their components.  And what is it's importance?  According to Leslie at KindergartenWorks.com

The simple answer is because there is value in students being able to see the groupings, relationships and patterns in numbers. We are laying the foundation for students to be able to do 53+12 and see that they can manipulate it into making 50+15 or 60+5 or 50+10+3+2 or any other variety of ways to see the quantity as it makes sense to them.

Do you understand that?  Is she saying that if our kids can break apart numbers, then they can build them back into a number they understand?!?  I'm lost.  How about you?  More importantly, how about your K-2nd grader?  Don't worry though because Ms. Leslie has written three articles to help you understand and teach your kindergartner.  Don't miss out on her visuals.  They will help you understand.  BTW, what is it with 10 frames and Common Core?!?  Are our kids destined to see dots and count dots to do math?

Back to the CC standards.  Here is another one of the actual math standards.  This one is for 1st grade and the Domain is "Operations and Algebraic Thinking".
Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 - 4 = 13 - 3 - 1 = 10 - 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 - 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).

Now let's put out critical thinking caps on.  That is after all, what the proponents of Common Core tell us these standards are all about.  Regardless of which company the school district buys its math "curriculum"' from, what has to be taught for the child to pass the test for this standard?  Ms. Lahey mentions Everyday Math as being the culprit here.  How is Everyday Math going to teach this without being confusing?  Ms. Lahey is right.  This fuzzy math ~and the education reformers~ have been around for a long time.  Common Core isn't the first rodeo that parents have had to push back on education reform.  Common Core is probably the first time that these failed math strategies have been written into standards that must be taught.

This is where you have to follow the money in the complicated web that is Common Core.

IF one has a new set of standards that require new skills to be taught and tested on, what happens to the current textbooks and curriculum in a school?  That's right.  They have to be replaced, but replaced with what?  Why curriculum that is aligned with the new standards and tests, right?  Well, where would one go to get new curriculum for Common Core?  Enter Pearson.  Pearson is a London-based company ~yes, as in the London that is across the Pond~ whose goal is to "to transform education globally in order to improve people’s lives through learning."  Pearson is the leading education company that provides ~sells~ curriculum, tests ~for both students and teachers~ and data solutions.   The bonus is that it all fits together in one neat package for the school.  What could be easier than that?  In 2011, Pearson entered into a partnership with the Gates Foundation ~hmm where have we heard that name before?~  to create digital learning systems programs to teach the Common Core standards.  Guess who owns the GED Testing Service?  Well, what do you know.  GED is a joint venture of Pearson and ACE. ~The American Council on Education~  Who else has received Gates Foundation dollars to implement Common Core?  Let's see, there was $4.4 Million to Scholastic ~another familiar name in the school curriculum world~   $4 Million to Khan Academy in 2011, and  $1.5 Million in 2010.  Just for fun go to the Gates Foundation data base for Awarded Grants here and type in Common Core.  Currently it lists 161 grants for Common Core.  Just browse through them and see what names jump out at you.  We'll tackle the Gate Foundation funding in the creation of Common Core in another post.  That is a whole other knot to unravel as is the link between McGraw-Hill and No Child Left Behind.

Still not convinced?  Don't take my word for it, listen to what Bill Gates himself says about aligning the standards with the curriculum and the tests.

Suffice to say, I think we've answered the question of whether Common Core is only standards or do they dictate to teachers what to teach ~curriculum~.  What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you have done a great job here. Not long ago I had a true believer of cc truly believe it was only about standards and, like you said, not about the curriculum, which was the choice of your local school district who are using the standards as a front for curriculum that pushes an agenda. He sat me down and showed me standard after standard for each grade and following each asked, "What is wrong with any of these standards? Where does it tell HOW (voice raised and exagerated) the standard has to be taught? It DOESN"T (with "gotcha" glee). And today -- I find my way here searching something else entirely different and land on the best breakdown on the internet as to why, "It is ONLY standards, a guideline" myth. Thank you for the work you have put into this. (Tried to comment with wordpress name What A Hoot, but got error so ended up having to use Anonymous.)