Common Core Standards aren't really very Common

From the 5th grade Common Core Standards:

Interpret the product (a/b) × q as a parts of a partition of q
into b equal parts; equivalently, as the result of a sequence of
operations a × q ÷ b. For example, use a visual fraction model to
show (2/3) × 4 = 8/3, and create a story context for this equation. Do the same with (2/3) × (4/5) = 8/15. (In general, (a/b) × (c/d) = ac/bd.)

How do you like the above standard? Is it perfectly clear to you? This is typical of the Common Core Standards recommended by the Columbian opinion piece “Common Goal” published on 10/19/10. Remember, this is a 5th grade standard. Few 5th grade teachers will even understand this standard much less teach it to 5th graders.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are very uncommon standards. They are uncommon in the sense that they are written in language that pays no attention to who they were written for. Standards are supposed to be user friendly and understandable to all stakeholders; students, parents, the public, and teachers to name a few. In fact, many teachers have been told to write the standard they are teaching on the board so it can help guide the students. How do you think the average 5th grader would respond to the above standard? I can tell you; they would freak out.

The Columbian recommended the adoption of these standards but I would bet you they have never looked at them much less tried to read them for understanding. Of course these standards weren’t looked at by the 48 governors who committed to adopt them either. They weren’t looked at because they weren’t even written at the time.

Randy Dorn, our superintendent of public instruction, hadn’t read them when he provisionally adopted them this summer. Even if he had he wouldn’t have understood them. Randy has been quoted as saying “I’m not a math guy.” Believe me, it takes a serious math guy to understand the CCSS.

Of course we can’t blame Randy, the legislature passed SB6696 in March authorizing Dorn to provisionally adopt the CCSS and they weren’t written then either. This is starting to sound like the “Pelosi system”: “We need to pass the bill so we can see what is in it.”

Why did all these people want to adopt the CCSS sight unseen? Because they were trying to get the Race to the Top money from the federal government. RttT, as it is called required states to adopt the CCSS sight unseen. (Un)fortunately, Washington state wasn’t one of the winners of the RttT money. If we had been selected we could have gotten around 250 million dollars from the feds. 100 million of that would go to the state and 150 million would be distributed to the schools. We have about a million students, so that amounts to about $150 per student.

In case you didn’t know it costs about $9500 a year per student to educate a child in Washington. So for about $150 more per student we are supposed to hand over control of our entire school system to someone in Washington DC. Without even reading or evaluating what we would be getting for our $150. Are you alarmed? You should be!

Handing over control of our state education system would be a huge mistake. And make no mistake about it, if we adopt national standards in math and English (History soon to follow) we will be handing control of our state system to whoever controls those standards and the assessments that will follow. The thing that makes this even weirder is no one seems to know who that someone really is.

The CCSS were created behind closed doors with a great amount of secrecy. Now that they are outed, it isn’t clear who will have control over them. Yet, while everyone else is worried about the economy and the upcoming election, our state school superintendent is moving forward at giving control of our state education system to….who knows?

Don’t worry too much, there is still time. The legislature can stop the takeover in the upcoming legislative session. Just start telling all of your friends to get ready to bombard the legislature with messages telling them you don’t want unknowns in Washington DC to run Washington states’ education system. After this November, I don’t think it will be that hard to get their attention.

Bob Dean

Bob Dean

Former Math Educator

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