Bob Dean

Can You Hear Me Now?

The people of Washington have spoken loud and clear: No new taxes! Government at every level is going to have to tighten their belts. This is no time for government expansion or starting down new paths that will lead to unnecessary spending. One such path that is sneaking under the radar is the provisional adoption of national math standards requested by Superintendent of Instruction, Randy Dorn.

Washington’s math standards were changed in 2008 after more than a decade of using confusing and vague standards that were written by reformers in the late 1990’s. These poorly written standards led to the disastrous WASL exam, a test that the majority of Washington’s students never could pass despite more than a billion dollars of expenditures. It took the citizens of Washington to rise up and demand the change of these standards. After a lengthy and expensive process the standards were changed and Washington’s newly revised standards now rank among the best in the nation according the Thomas B. Fordham institute, a Washington DC think tank that rates state learning standards.

Millions of dollars have been spent by both the state of Washington and local school districts to embrace the new math learning targets. Schools districts have adopted new textbooks aligned to the them, the state has spent millions on professional development to prepare teachers to use them and students have been given instruction based on them for more than a year. The first assessment based on these new standards has been developed and will be given to students throughout the state for the first time in June of 2011.

But hold everything: Here comes the Common Core State Standards initiative. This initiative, led by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), was put together to write a set of national standards for both math and English. Forty-eight governors agreed to consider adopting these standards before they were even written. Some states did adopt them before they were written and numerous states adopted them before any valid comparisons were made with their own state standards. Washington was one of the states that provisionally adopted the standards before such a comparison was completed.

The question has to be asked, why would the State of Washington want to adopt new math standards when we just spent millions of dollars revising our previous standards and have invested heavily in time and effort to prepare our students for the upcoming assessments in June? The answer: Money from the federal government and a desire by many liberals to have national education standards, an idea that has been resisted for the entire history of our nation.

Supposedly, the CCSSI as it is called, was driven by the states and not the federal government. However, the Obama administration tied adoption of the CCSS to gaining Race to the Top funds which they are providing to states who fall in line with the present administrations idea of a proper education. They also have provided over 300 million dollars for two groups to develop national assessments for the new standards. It is clear that the Obama administration is attempting to buy the will of cash strapped states and for the first time put the federal government in control of our nation’s schools through the adoption of national education standards. This starts with standards for math and English and is scheduled to be closely followed by national standards for history.

The Common Core math standards are not an improvement over the existing Washington standards. They are behind top international standards and are written in mathematical language that will make them all but unusable by many teachers especially at the middle and elementary school levels. They also lack high school organization and will require further delay in requiring students to meet math standards for high school graduation.

Randy Dorn is going to request 2.1 million dollars from the upcoming legislature to implement the Common Core Standards throughout our state. This is only the beginning of the expense to change over to yet another set of educational targets. Textbooks that have just recently been adopted will not align well with the CCSS and will need to be replaced or at least greatly supplemented. Ongoing professional development will be required for teachers to even attempt to teach the CCSS. Additional remedial courses will have to be offered in schools all over the state because students have not been taught the new standards in lower grades. The state spent more than 30 million dollars when they introduced the current revised standards and proper preparation for the CCSS will cost much more than that.

Who is going to pay for all this and what is the justification? We know who will be required to pay but there is no justification for making this change. The benefits that are claimed by those who want national standards are disproved by the fact that those benefits did not occur at the state level when we adopted statewide math standards.

Our state is looking at major budget cuts. This is no time to spend money on needless and unproven standards that for all practical purposes will remove Washington citizens from any meaningful input towards the education of their children. Few Washingtonians are even aware of this initiative and not one dime of taxpayer money should be spent on it. The newly elected legislature needs to soundly reject any move towards embracing national standards. They need to listen to what the people have just said; Legislators will proceed down the present path at their own peril.

Bob Dean

Math Teacher Singer/songwriter

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