Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Utah and Common Core

A recent well published poll on Common Core  doesn't point out the Federal involvement. The Federal "Race to the Top" funding competition in 2009 provided little time for the states to adopt Common Core, so almost no legislatures were involved in the adoption nationally. With the National Governors Association behind it, I am not surprised it was signed in the approx. 2 months the states were given initially. The poll also doesn't talk about the Federal Government strings with the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) waivers.

The State Constitution reads: "The general control and supervision of the public education system shall be vested in a State Board of Education. ". Our State Board just voted for the NCLB waiver.

I don't mind having access to a national grassroots standard, as long as we have the flexibility to amend/modify/add/delete anything to make it better. With the Federal Strings tied to Common Core through the NCLB , it limits what we can change, which is one of the major problems. Also, teachers are saying the local school boards are using "Common Core" to tell teachers what to teach and when. 

Math teachers I have talked to believe the standard will do 2 things, help ACT scores rise and decrease the number of students taking remedial math when they reach college.

Many do not like the "no text books" and want other options.

There are those that would have taken 8th grade Algebra that would take Calculus their senior year that should not have to waste their 8th grade and could move faster and those that are not understanding the concepts, and may not understand, that have traditionally been taught by rote.

The standard, is a one size fits all approach, which will only work with the middle students. 

The schools have spent the last few years gearing up for this, and changing or discarding their books, etc. Whatever the Utah Legislature does re: Common Core, based on that, and based on the State Constitution, has to be measured. 

 Is Common Core a "national grassroots standard"? Is it really just "voluntary standards the Utah State Board of Education has adopted, first put forward by state governors and education experts"? Those statements hardly tell the whole truth.

Besides the National Governor's Association, with their Corporate Fellows, who are the "education experts" behind Common Core, and why did the Federal Government want to set a hook to get the States to adopt Common Core with Utah biting and being reeled in, hook, line and sinker?

Common Core State Standards are hosted and maintained by the Council of Chief State School Officers  (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices  (NGA Center).

As an architect, I have dealt with grassroots national standards and have done so for 35 years, including before I was an architect. There are 350 ICC chapters around the country and also in other countries. Members include building officials, architects and others. The ICC is truly grassroots. Utah also has a Building Code Commission that proposes amendments to the model codes for Utah. The Legislature adopts the code and the amendments.

Based on the information I have from them, I do not believe the NGA Center or the CCSSO are really "grassroots". 

Was Common Core created by the Federal Government? No, however the Federal Government has provided financial incentives to adopt it (which we didn't get) and the NCLB waiver, which we are taking. I see a very large hook on the end of that line. If you don't believe it, look at Oklahoma.

[Update. This article  shows that the current State School Board is aware of the Federal hook associated with both Common Core and NCLB, and are trying to protect Utah as much as they think they can. We will see if we are still firmly hooked or not in the near future.]

[Update 2. When I took 8th grade Algebra, the class was "too big". It was split and I had the "new" teacher that had never taught math before and had majored in English. In 7th grade, I had wanted to be a math teacher. In 8th grade I didn't want to be a math teacher anymore. It took years for me to fully understand some of the math concepts I should have understood in 8th grade. I believe, in that case, splitting the class hurt my education and providing someone else, perhaps the same teacher, to help would have been better. Great teachers are important. Class size isn't the answer to everything..

The 8th grade Algebra that I took would have allowed me to take Calculus my senior year, providing it was offered enough times for it to fit in my schedule with English and Choir. In my case it was faced with dropping one of those classes to fit in Calculus. Not having Calculus in high school hurt understanding both required math and physics classes for computer science and architecture at the University of Utah. ]