Equivalent Expressions and the Common Core Standards

February 13, 2014 11:00 am

by Jon Richards · 19 comments

When I was in school, I learned about the transitive property of equality. That’s the math principle that says if A = B and B = C, then A = C. For example, if 3*4=12 and 2*6=12, then 3*4=2*6. Of course, this principle can be misused: If Georgia defeats LSU in football and LSU defeats Auburn, then Georgia defeats Auburn. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.

Some people are misusing the transitive property in order to stir up opposition to the Common Core State Standards for education.

Here’s a telling example: A Facebook post by the group Georgia Gun Owners about the results of the recent House District 22 runoff maintained that one of the candidates “refused to condemn the anti-gun Common Core.” And why are the common core standards anti-gun?

[A] textbook in Texas [whose publisher links to Common Core standards on it's website] refers to the Second Amendment this way: “The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.” … We have enough humility to rephrase that: “Ms. Biello refused to condemn Common Core; publishers of textbooks which refer to Second Amendment rights as those only available to those in a state militia, link to Common Core standards on their websites.”

Let’s see. A publisher has a book with a reference to the Second Amendment. The publisher links to the Commmon Core Standards. Therefore, Common Core is anti-gun. Never mind the fact that the publisher didn’t write the standards, or that because the standards only cover English/Language Arts and Math, they are silent on any interpretations of the Bill of Rights.

This is only one example of how the Common Core standards are being used for political purposes that have nothing to do with what the standards really are.

There is a more serious case that misapplies the transitive property in order to foment opposition to Common Core. This time, it’s a resolution introduced in Congress. House Resolution 476 was introduced on Tuesday. It’s sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, and has 42 cosponsors, including Georgia Reps. Doug Collins and Jack Kingston. There is a matching Senate Resolution 345, sponsored by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The title of the bill says,

Strongly supporting the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments, and strongly denouncing the President’s coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants and flexibility waivers

As with most resolutions, this one begins with a series of Whereas’s outlining the findings of Congress. The one that bothered me was this one: Whereas national standards lead to national assessments and national assessments lead to a national curriculum;

Applying the transitive property to this results in the conclusion that national standards mean a national curriculum. And that is by no means true.

It’s possible to develop a national curriculum based on the Common Core standards. It also looked like the Dawgs were going to beat Auburn, until the last second or so.

It appears to me that much of the opposition to the standards applies not to the standards themselves, but to a bunch of what ifs and could bes. I suspect most people would oppose a national curriculum. And a lot of people oppose the carrot and a stick approach used by Congress to impose its preferences on the states.

But, I never hear anyone discussing the standards themselves. Like standard CCSS.Math.Content.6.EE.A.4, which teaches students to understand equivalent expressions.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Bearse February 13, 2014 at 11:10 am

And don’t forget about job-killing. Obamacore is job-killing.

Patrick T. Malone February 13, 2014 at 11:27 am

Brilliant explanation of why some many arguments against Common Core are convoluted. Thanks Jon Richards.

NoTeabagging February 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Will that be on the test?

Eric The Younger February 13, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Bravo Zulu, Jon.

NorthGAGOP February 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Jon – I like the post. It would appear that the transitive property also does not apply to you, as you back Jack?

Jon Richards February 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Actually, I am one of those who think federal grants conditioned on certain behavior by the states is a bad thing. So, I would likely be in favor of the resolution, if I had a vote. I would be even more favorable if an amendment took out the whereas I cited in the post.

John Konop February 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Jon,

I agree about the overreach……but I have written real examples about the issue…the other side refuses to deal with it as well……I wish the debate did center around the problems so we can fix it….

Harry February 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm
Daniel N. Adams February 13, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Like when the GOP was OK with giving more power to the executive branch and not foreseeing how that would work when they were no longer in charge Common Core has similar issue…. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/government-oversight/198307-gop-resolution-blasts-common-core-standards

seenbetrdayz February 13, 2014 at 11:06 pm

I think the law of unintended consequences will be in full effect, as it often is with government policies.

John Konop February 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

Jon,

Once again I have been making comments about this topic for years…..Below are some real issues parents and teachers have concerns….Once again it seems the other side is guilty of just ignoring the problems….I have never seen a comment by you about the issues? Do you not understand the frustration?

…..The real issue both sides are missing much of the end of year testing system is a waste of money and time…..

Just a few examples:

1) AP level students take end of year testing for credit already….and this is used for ranking AP level teachers….the testing is way above common core…..why send the money on having students take an unrelated test?

2) Joint enrollment students are taking college classes….why would we spend money testing them with common core? Unless you think we should use common core for all college students? You do know all joint enrollment students take SAT/ACT? Is common core better than that?

3) All vo-tech programs already have standards to be certified to do the skills….how is common core better than the aptitude test than standards will all agree on….for nurse tech, trucking…..

I could on and on….this is why I have said for years the regents
( higher education) needs to be connected with k – 12. If we merged the higher education system already works on an expectable standard system….if we started working backwards we could clean up this issue, and focus more on skills for jobs, 4 year college….rather than k-12 telling driving what is needed….this solution works for private, public, home, charter…..

And it would save lots of money while increasing quality….I have talked with many key people in the system and all agree this makes more sense….but they always warn about turf wars and testing industry….

More points on this….

http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/jan/03/improve-vocational-track-georgia-high-schools/

Jon Richards February 14, 2014 at 2:46 pm

John, I think you and I agree on many points. I have thought for a long time that beginning some time in the 80s, junior high schools and high schools were dropping vocational type programs in favor of college tracks that left some students frustrated because they weren’t going to fit in in a college track.

What I’m seeing now is a renewed effort to offer vocational tracks. Here in Gwinnett is a great example. High school students can go to the Maxwell School of Technology, or take classes at Gwinnett Tech and get credit for their work. There are also articulation agreements with Georgia Gwinnett College. And part of this is because the various players in the system (Gwinnett Public Schools, Gwinnett Tech, GGC, and the business community) came together to develop programs designed to provide educated graduates to work in what are seen as high-growth jobs, especially in healthcare.

I also see some progress on this at the state level, with Go Build Georgia, the State Workforce Investment Board, the Technical College System and the Georgia Department of Economic Development making a push emphasizing non-baccalaureate training and degrees in fields of high demand.

My question about the tests revolves around their purpose. Are they supposed to measure the student’s readiness for the next step in their educational career? Are they supposed to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum being taught against the standards the curriculum was developed for? Are they measuring teacher/school system performance? Or is it some sort of combination of all of the above?

Somehow, I fear it’s the last option–all of the above, and that probably isn’t the right way to go. As with a lot of comprehensive legislation, it’s supposed to solve a variety of related problems in one easy step, but ends up doing a mediocre job for each of the sub-areas it is supposed to help.

John Konop February 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Jon,

……..My question about the tests revolves around their purpose. Are they supposed to measure the student’s readiness for the next step in their educational career? Are they supposed to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum being taught against the standards the curriculum was developed for? Are they measuring teacher/school system performance? Or is it some sort of combination of all of the above?

Somehow, I fear it’s the last option–all of the above, and that probably isn’t the right way to go. As with a lot of comprehensive legislation, it’s supposed to solve a variety of related problems in one easy step, but ends up doing a mediocre job for each of the sub-areas it is supposed to help….

You hit it on the nail! I look at the problem is we are doing this backwards…We should design it from the end user…which the countries doing better than us do….If we understand eventual skills needed for job, the better we work in reverse the higher level of success….The testing logic should be centered around this based on aptitude….Instead we have educational bureaucrats telling the business community and colleges what they want…..that is why I am for breaking down walls…instead of separate bureaucracies between higher education and k-12…..Nothing is a 100 percent but closer you get to end user, higher success rate….

John Konop February 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Jon,

……..My question about the tests revolves around their purpose. Are they supposed to measure the student’s readiness for the next step in their educational career? Are they supposed to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum being taught against the standards the curriculum was developed for? Are they measuring teacher/school system performance? Or is it some sort of combination of all of the above?

Somehow, I fear it’s the last option–all of the above, and that probably isn’t the right way to go. As with a lot of comprehensive legislation, it’s supposed to solve a variety of related problems in one easy step, but ends up doing a mediocre job for each of the sub-areas it is supposed to help….

You hit it on the nail! I look at the problem is we are doing this backwards…We should design it from the end user…which the countries doing better than us do….If we understand eventual skills needed for job, the better we work in reverse the higher level of success….The testing logic should be centered around this based on aptitude….Instead we have educational bureaucrats telling the business community and colleges what they want…..that is why I am for breaking down walls…instead of separate bureaucracies between higher education and k-12…..Nothing is a 100 percent but closer you get to end user, higher success rate….

Harry February 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm
spencerman February 14, 2014 at 9:24 pm

I am an educator with many years of experience. There are many reasons why I oppose Common Core, mainly due to the implementation of the standards. As an educator and taxpayer, I oppose the standards for the following reasons:
1. Cost analysis: The implementation and testing will be too expensive. Not all schools will have the means to meet the technological requirements to take the formative and summative assessments. There was never a cost analysis of the standards. Testing costs are expected range from $27-$35 per student. It is expected that all the training, data collection technologies, and further framework design of curricular tasks will lead to a cost of approximately $13 billion dollars over a 10 year period. Georgia’s education budget will not be able to sustain the costs with a dysfunctional funding formula. I might add that revising the dysfunctional formula continues to be the dirty little secret the Generally Assembly does not want to tackle. Instead, they want to come up with ways divert their responsibility to uphold the state’s constitution.
2. Lack of alignment and progression. Distorts effective pedagogical practices:
• Common Core (CC) literacy standards and ELA standards assume scaffolding and prerequisite knowledge have been taught throughout all grade levels. In addition, the curriculum materials have been created by corporations with little pedagogical design supported by effective educational research; absent is the use of the Understanding by Design framework. These materials are aimed at helping educators to implement the standards, but they are fragmented on their interpretation of literacy practices. Dog-&-pony shows and disjointed training sessions were used to give the meaning of the Common Core to teachers. Little horizontal and vertical alignment procedures were not done across grade levels; therefore, CC implementation limited the scope of professional dialogue as to the standards are being interpreted by teachers. Accompany this with fragmented curriculum materials being released by large textbook/testing corporations, creates confusion as how to teach the standards.
• The Understanding by Design framework was completely ignored when the standards were created. The emphasis of using informational text across content is being sold to teachers that some content will be bolstered and well connected; however, varied reading assignments would have to be done in order to allow for greater reading sustainability and stamina from the reader. Often, it appears that with fragmented resources on the market, many educators know that end-of-year reading levels cannot be achieved with the lack of instructional time accompanied with inappropriate standard progressions.
• Most Reading Foundation Standards usually appear alongside the standards in the framework document. With CC, the Reading Foundation Standards appear on page 16 and they are not described in much detail ( eg: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words). In other words, the CC is suggesting not to teach foundation skills in the early grades (which is contraindicated) with other ELA standards but to teach those in concert with reading other subject matter. This flies in the face of reading pedagogy that has been used for many decades. Younger grades need decoding exercises to build foundational reading skills in fluency and comprehension. This is a direct result of not using the current and prior researched standard framework models.
• With no empirical evidence of CC’s performance review, these standards are being implemented on a wing and prayer. Similarly, this can also be observed in the Math standards. The “let’s-see-if-it-works” approach policy will be very costly for Georgia on many levels and the answer from politicians will be to throw money at it.
3. Allowing the overreach of federal Influence: Common Core was state-lead by the National Governor’s Association (lead by Sonny Perdue-GA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers using the blueprint of a document known as Goals 2000 produced by both the George HW Bush and William Jefferson Clinton Administrations. This culminating effort was financed through the 21st Century’s version of the Rockefeller Foundation known as the Bill & Melinda Gates. Foundation. To call this program “Obamacore” covers up the bipartisan attack on education being dismantled by both political parties. However, the current USDOE is commandeering the state’s decision making process on education by funding this effort through Race to the Top (RttT) which is an Obama lead agenda. RttT is amplifying the effects of pervasive testing put in motion by George W Bush’s No Child Left Behind. All of these links in the chain, laced with pollutants from both political parties, will shackle the teacher and student. The more this occurs, the more it will contribute to the perception that public education is bad in America. The states are addicted to federal dollars and they do not want to lose their current federal dollars under Title-one among others. The State is refusing to uphold their obligation under Georgia constitution. They should protect the citizens of Georgia from the influence of federal overreach, directly or indirectly. They should allow for a more open and transparent process to see if the CC has merit and if it is worth of implementation. There is no empirical educational research evidence to suggest they are “better” than what we have currently. Let’s put the standards through a review process and let’s see how they hold up. If they are “good”, then we should pilot them. If not, get rid of them. Therefore, the cowards under the Gold Dome are not upholding their oath of office. Instead, they are upholding their oath to their re-election campaigns.
Jeremy Spencer, Ed.S

M. Norris February 14, 2014 at 11:25 pm

As a Georgia teacher who left the classroom to fight against Common Core full time, I’m not sure where to begin addressing your misunderstanding. First, Texas is not a Common Core state so I’m not sure how your gun argument links to Common Core, but I will pretend, for your point, that it is. You mention that the textbook publisher did not write the standards. Well, in fact, they did. Pearson, who now owns McGraw Hill, Prentice Hall, Harcourt, Random House, and about 40 other educational publishing houses (http://www.pearson.com/about-us/education/north-america.html), did have a seat at the table in the writing of Common Core. They are now collecting billions of dollars as every single school in 45 states replaces their textbooks, with one of the hundreds of texts already written and published by Pearson (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-common-core-ravitch/). The standards are silent on interpretations of the Bill of Rights, but they are used as “informational text,” in English/language arts classrooms without explanation or context. Math teachers are expected to use Science content and English/language Arts teachers are expected to use social studies documents (http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf). None of it is used within the context of understanding.
You are correct in saying the Common Core standards are not political. Both sides of the aisle are equally as culpable for this disaster. As a Democrat I stand side-by-side with Republicans and Independents to end them. After 18 months with Common Core in my classroom I saw first hand the damage they were doing to my students. It was only because of my doctoral work that I began to understand why my students were frustrated. I began to see high absentee rates, the self-cutting, the hair pulling, and the behavior problems. This is what I came to learn and why I had to give my Title 1 students a voice.
1. Common Core Standards were not written by ANY teachers, or child development experts. The writers have often bragged about how unqualified they were to write the standards. It has much to do with the fact that they attacked them like a business thinker would. They made a list of everything a child should know to get into a non-selective community college and worked backwards. Sadly when they got to first grade, they had lots of stuff left over. They left out key foundational learning elements, which is why standards are designed from foundation forward, not backward (http://www.edwatchusa.org/2014/01/blooms-taxonomy-and-decades-of-research-and-classroom-practice-ignored/). The end goal for CC is a set of standardized workers. Of the top 20 projected growth jobs in the state of GA in 2020, only 3 require a college degree. The Standards design team began by using Algebra 2 as the most difficult math needed. No trig, no advanced algebra, no calculus. Watch here as Jason Zimba explains how Common Core does not prepare students for anything but non-selective colleges: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJZY4mh2rt8
2. I am certain you have seen the hundreds of videos of children melting down over homework they don’t understand. Let’s take a 3 month-old baby. In order to meet the standard this baby needs to be speaking by 4 months. As his teacher, I will scaffold, and differentiate and use every teaching tool I have. Am I going to get that baby to speak? No, of course not. You see children’s brains go through a series of development stages (http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html). They can accomplish certain things at certain stages. Some go through the stages more quickly than others, but all children go through the same stages. Common Core takes none of this into consideration. Obviously when you have a lawyer, two entrepreneurs and two research professors who have never taught K-12 nor do any of them have a background in teaching, you are going to have design problems. Research them and see exactly who they were in bed with on this. It will make your stomach churn. It was arrogant of them to think they even could design standards. Ahhhhh, but they were not designing standards for education…..were they? Over 500 early child development experts who reviewed the standards signed a statement clearly stating the Common Core standards were developmentally inappropriate for the K-3 ages. (http://www.edweek.org/media/joint_statement_on_core_standards.pdf )It was ignored.
3. The idea that the “real world” belongs in the classroom is a mistake. The classroom and business operate on two very different paradigms. Education is the foundation for the real world. If we wanted real world why bother with educating? What Common Core has created is a reboot of the guild system from the middle ages. By testing a child and assigning them to a “career path” at a young age you are ensuring that the child will never be able to choose what they want to do. When we went to school the client in education was the child. We were pushed to be the best we could be. We were given a foundation that worked no matter what we wanted to do with our lives. Today under CC the client in education is big business and our children are a product for them. Even worse we are standardizing our children. Much like a McDonalds hamburger tastes the same no matter where you buy it, Gates and his cronies want a workforce that is entirely the same.
4. Data. This entire thing is data driven. Bill Gates did not spend millions of dollars for nothing. Imagine the power of a database with all personal and testing data from every child P-20. That is what is pushing this. Along with the money Pearson is making. This is about money, greed and campaign donations. Just look at how much money Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst has pumped into Georgia politicians (www.followthemoney.com).
I’m going to steal an example from Peg Luksik (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzLrYIDQiqY) and ask you to imagine this scenario. Imagine the standard you are working on is to bake a chocolate cake. Let’s say I wrote the standard and I want you to bake a chocolate cake exactly like mine. When you are done I am going to come back and test your cake. It must be exactly like mine, and even taste like mine. So we have a standard and a test. What has to happen in between that standard and that test in order to get the exact chocolate cake outlined in the standard? A curriculum. And if the cake is going to taste the exact same, how much leeway do you have between the standard and the test? Not much, if any. That is how the standards drive the curriculum. That is why teachers will continue to teach to the test. It has nothing to do with the transitive property. It has to do with a test that measures only one grade level and only one small set of skills http://www.scribd.com/doc/201479293/At-the-Educational-Crossroads.
CCSS.Math.Content.6.EE.A.4, is a sixth grade standard requiring abstract thinking in a concrete brain. There is nothing wrong with learning this skill. But with no foundation building, only concrete thinking available, and the abstract requirement “the expressions y + y + y and 3y are equivalent because they name the same number regardless of which number y stands for..” is as difficult as making a 4 month old talk or this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YLlX61o8fg.

seenbetrdayz February 15, 2014 at 8:03 am

I predict that within 3 more posts someone is going to come out with a comment along the lines of how long of a ramble this post was rather than addressing the substance of its content. —While, of course, simultaneously claiming to invite reasoned debate over the matter.

John Konop February 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

MNorris,

In the ” real world” people are not one size fit all…we have strengths and weakness based on aptitude…..In the ” real world” the key to a successful company is putting people in the right position based on skill sets….in this ” real world” your ability to match your aptitude toward skill sets you are learning is key to success….

I Q test was deveolped to test aptitude so when people were drafted in the military to figure the ath track to train them….Education should be about fostering skills based on your aptitude….No education system in the world changes aptitude…the best education systems in the world foster it…..

Finally people tend to grasp concepts better when they are attached to the ” real world”. They may not know they are using statistics, algebra……but they learn the concepts because it is grounded in learning how to fix a car, plumbing,…….as both sides debate the magic bullet approach to education, students get left behind…..