Letter to Utah State Board, Part 2

Since I was accused of not knowing both sides of the story after sending my first email, and the reply I received was sent to all members of the State School Board, State Superintendent, and others, I feel compelled to share with you both sides of the conversation that followed my initial letter to the state school board (Part 1) so that you may have full disclosure on Common Core issues as viewed by the State Board. I wouldn’t want to be accused of not sharing both sides of the story with you since everyone on the school board now has my perspective.

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Oak,

Debra forwarded your email to our Board, attempting to insure that we hear all sides of the issue on the Common Core Adoption.  Since you and I have had several email conversations about the Mathematics Core over the years, I wanted to tell you how offensive this email is and why.

First, each of us have our understanding of the facts, as they are presented to us and based on our experience.  Our Board Chair, Debra, has a very unique view of the issues surrounding public education by the experiences she has been part of over the past nine years.  She has represented our state at the national level and over the past three years, served as our Chair, with hundreds of meetings with legislators, educational groups, supporters and those who aren’t supporters.  Her facts are based on a multitude of experiences that most of us, but especially someone outside the system cannot even imagine.  She and other members of our Board have worked diligently to evaluate and reevaluate the structure, standards, assessment and all other contributing conditions to provide a quality education for the students of our state.  She knows because of that involvement that part of the push back on the Utah Common Core, is the belief that all students cannot master the necessary skill to be successful.  She also knows that mathematics professionals from another generation cannot fathom starting to teach algebraic and geometric ideas to Kindergarten students and having all students ready and proficient to pass Allegra and Geometry before they exit the school system.  It is so sad that you could be so blind as to not understand that those working in the system might know something beyond what the public knows in regard to the workings of our school system, and part of that not knowing is the belief that all students can’t be ready for college.

Your concerns over the state core curriculum over the years has had some basis.  We have not had the highest quality of math and/or language arts standards to drive our curriculum over the many years we have had Core Standards.  However, the adoption of the Common Core Standards have greatly improved our expectations and are now helping our districts and teachers upgrade the curriculum for each and every student of our state.   These standards were created with the help of the brightest minds in our country (many from our own State Office of Education).   And yes, developing such high quality standards does take money, and that issue is partly why Utah has always had to work and share with others educational professionals, or do without.  As the lowest funded state in the nation, we have little extra money to put into developing standards, curriculum and assessment.  Thus this collaboration is a huge advantage for our state, both in regard to the quality of the standards, but also the money saved in their creation.

I have always valued your input, but am so sad that you would voice your input with such derogatory comments to someone who has worked so hard to help improve education for all the students of the state.  Debra Roberts, our State Board and our State Office of Education deserves more from our constituents who care about education — because as a constituent, you are part of the success or failure of our system.

Please continue to stay involved, but please take the time to stay informed in regard to the multitude of sides to any one issue.

Best Wishes,

Dixie

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Dixie, I am a bit surprised at the tone of your letter to me. You tell me to know both sides of the story before commenting but did you know the things I listed in my letter to Debra? Did the state board know that this was not a state led initiative before you joined in to support it? Did anyone at the state office know that UNESCO and the Gates Foundation were the prime movers behind the Common Core? Did you know that Achieve is Gates funded? Were you fully aware of this agenda when the board signed onto Common Core? If you did, then I sincerely apologize (and this raises a host of new concerns). If not, I encourage you to learn the other side of the story.

As you are probably aware, Debra’s comments came in the middle of a fight at the legislature to reconsider the Common Core standards in light of these discoveries. As you know, I and several others have been spoken ill of for our work. We’ve been called uninformed and worse. You make the point here that Debra was talking about some other people who think Common Core is too hard for our children. I’m not the judge on that, but I can say that I haven’t heard that from anyone except a teacher who deals with children every day who struggle to stay up on their math. Debra’s comment in the context of what was actually happening during the week, may have been a case of bad timing, since the ONLY people being discussed at the legislature or in the press were USOE officials who told legislators and the governor that this was completely a state led initiative, and parents like myself who were working hard to show this was the product of UNESCO and the Gates Foundation who have set us up and only needed states to come together on a common core to have the standards slip into place with everything else that was planned.

Who reviewed Common Core? How did we determine it was better than our old standards? If we really want our children to be “career and college ready” why didn’t we go to one of the best standards available that would have still had significant curricula available for it? It would have been easy to adopt California or Massachusetts’ math standards since there are materials that match them and they are higher rated than Common Core. MA also has great English standards. Here’s a few comments you may find interesting in context of providing the other side of the story on Common Core.

Sandra Stotsky, former assistant superintendent of education in Massachusetts

“The wisest move all states could make to ensure that students learn to read, understand, and use the English language appropriately before they graduate from high school is first to abandon Common Core’s “standards” and ask the National Governors Association to ask a national organization devoted to authentic literary study (ALSCW, e.g.,) to develop a set of high school literature standards that could serve as the backbone of a coherent literature curriculum from grade 6-12, with successively more difficult texts required from grade to grade.”

Professor Jim Milgram of Stanford, the only professional mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, wrote this when he declined to sign off on the Common Core standards:

“This is where the problem with these standards is most marked. While the difference between these standards and those of the top states at the end of eighth grade is perhaps somewhat more than one year, the difference is more like two years when compared to the expectations of the high achieving countries—particularly most of the nations of East Asia.”

Dr. Milgram’s comments were validated by a non-American on the review committee who said:

“I cannot in all conscience, endorse statements 2 and 3 [(2) Appropriate in terms of their level of clarity and specificity; (3) Comparable to the expectations of other leading nations] The standards are, in my view, much more detailed, and, as Jim Milgram has pointed out, are in important respects less demanding, than the standards of the leading nations.”

This excellent review shows specific examples where California is far easier to comprehend than the Common Core and is the source of these last two quotes.

http://educationnext.org/the-common-core-math-standards/

Oak

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Continue with part 3

3 Responses to “Letter to Utah State Board, Part 2”

  • Rick:

    Wow.  Until now, I didn’t know that we “cannot even imagine” how much they know and how much experience they have.  Shame on you Oak for questioning them.  And for not taking time to learn about Common Core before writing letters (that Dixie obviously didn’t read or doesn’t have the reading comprehension to understand).  And for being against common core because it will be too hard for our children.

    Scary to think we give these people our money, let alone power over our lives.

  • Carrie:

    Thank you for posting these.  It is helpful for us to see what they are thinking and how they are reacting to you, whom I do believe to be very informed on the issue.  It is sad to me that when people are questioned how adversely they react and in defense of themselves and their actions forget what their true focus should be – Our children and Our community!

  • Ladd & Barbara Petty:

    I echo Carrie’s comments. Carry on Oak. We value you & your research Thanks
    Barbara & Ladd Petty