Letter to State Board Members on New Math Standards

To write the state board, send an email to: board@schools.utah.gov

Dear State School Board members,

I have reviewed the presentation the USOE has prepared for the math committee members on Thursday night (http://schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/docs/Tab11.aspx). I have a conflict and cannot come to make a public comment so I am emailing you my comments.

I see you are also discussing the search for a new state superintendent. I have honestly appreciated Superintendent Menlove’s outreach, particularly these last few months. He truly made an effort to be a good listener to concerns and also helped resolve them, particularly as families around the state had difficulty opting their children out of SAGE tests. That said, I believe it is time to hire from outside the education circles of Utah. There are people within the power structure that must be fired. It is very difficult for friends to fire friends. Political games are played to ensure their jobs. Hiring from out of state would allow someone to come in and clean house and give the USOE the course correction they need. Someone experienced with a top notch education system elsewhere would be an ideal candidate.

It is obvious from the USOE presentation to you just how biased they are toward maintaining CCSS in Utah. During the last legislative session they succeeded in getting a $2 million fiscal note attached to Rep. Layton’s bill to replace Common Core, so I am happy to see they have dramatically lowered that figure for your presentation. Replacing standards is not nearly as expensive as they want to make it look. In fact, I know they were telling people that adopting Common Core was free, while doing anything else was expensive. Common Core was not free, it was quite expensive, but since Bill Gates funded its multi-million dollar creation and we only had to spend some millions of dollars in Utah to implement it, I guess we can play the game that it was free.

There happen to be free or extremely low cost solutions that are far superior to Common Core.

In math, we could adopt California, Indiana, or Massachusetts’ pre-Common Core math standards which Fordham identified as clearly superior to CCSS. The wonderful thing here is solid textbooks were completely aligned for CA due to its population size, and assessments would most likely be available with a 100% match to those standards.

In English, we have the Massachusetts revision to their excellent ELA standards, which never got implemented due to MA adopting CCSS. We also have another set of “English Success Standards” written by teachers which is free and could be adopted for free. We also have a standing offer from Dr. Sandra Stotsky, one of the MA authors, to come to Utah for the cost of lodging and incidentals, and work with Utah teachers to create our own top of the nation ELA standards.

I was heavily involved in getting Utah the 2007 standards. In 2009, before the 2007 standards had even been fully implemented in the state, the USOE signed onto an agreement to develop CC. This caused a number of districts to slow or stop their roll out of the 2007 standards because they knew something else was coming. By 2010, CCSS was released and adopted so many districts never even fully rolled out the 2007 standards because of the speed with which they were replaced. For the USOE to say that only 44% of students on the 2007 standards would achieve the 66% college goal of the governor is a wild falsehood and a scare tactic. They have no idea. For them to say CCSS will achieve this goal is also a wild stab in the dark since these standards are an experiment that just begun. Fordham actually said our 2007 standards were clearer and stronger than CCSS. Further, the 2007 standards would have been even stronger if the USOE had not wholesale rejected the recommendations of Dr. Wu, the external reviewer from Berkeley, for those standards. Their disgust at having to replace our D rated prior standards showed through the process and we wound up with A- rated standards instead of what would have probably been A rated standards. What we had was superior to Common Core and what we would have gotten would have put us in line with states like CA, IN, and MA.

Further, it is a bald faced lie that CCSS were internationally benchmarked. That has been completely disproven. They are not “world class” standards. The only professional mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, who also writes standards and reviews international standards, refused to sign off on CCSS precisely for this reason that CCSS leaves us 2 years behind international competitors. CCSS is already damaging our children by pushing them too hard in early grades and too slow in upper, particularly due to the awful implementation of the integrated method by the USOE in order that they could push their constructivist agenda into schools with the awful MVP program. Our 2007 standards were supposed to have been internationally benchmarked against Singapore and Japan. Nicole Paulson at the USOE told the committee this would take place, but to my knowledge she never did it.

Utah must have a complete break from anything tied to the federal government. CCSS, regardless of who you think actually created it, has clearly been hijacked by the federal government in an effort to consolidate the powers of education and control the system. The best decision, I believe, is to grant control of standards to the LEAs and shatter the ability for the feds or even the state to affect truly local control. Lets set up the laboratories within the state. There are no parents in this state who are going to want less than a wonderful education experience for their children. We always talk about increasing parental involvement. This would maximize it from the standards perspective. If you’re not willing to do this, then I would strongly recommend adopting the excellent standards of California for which there are textbooks and a large test bank that could be accessed.

The USOE slide of supporters contains a practical who’s who of constructivist, Investigations math loving people, as well as others who are financially benefiting from the USOE. Of course they are going to support them in CCSS!

I wish there was time and space to comment on many other slides in their presentation, but it’s obvious they are biased on their perspective, and it’s obvious that there is a strong growing concern about the direction they are taking Utah. Nothing impacts someone like having their child who once loved math now hate it. It only hits home when it affects you, as several legislators have now had happen to them.

Please get Utah off anything close to CCSS and its one-size-fits-all “solution.” LEA’s controlling their own standards can innovate and do things they otherwise couldn’t do.

Sincerely,

Oak Norton

5 thoughts on “Letter to State Board Members on New Math Standards”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly and 100% with Mr. Oak Norton’s letter seeking the get CCSS out of Utah completely and give local communities control over the education process.
    Please get Common Core out of Utah!
    signed,
    a concerned grandmother who received an excellent public school education under local control

  2. I also agree 100% with Mr. Oak Norton’s letter seeking to get CCSS out of Utah. Local Government
    should be in control of the education system Not Washington . I also plea for Common Sense. No
    Common Core for Utah!

    Ronald Fullmer
    Payson, Utah

  3. I too agree with Mr. Norton. I have hosted four foreign exchange students the last two years from Asia and Eastern Europe. Our math is way behind theirs. In their countries they were juniors, but needed AP classes to find something new. That has been true of Science as well. These standards are no where near as rigorous as in other countries, or even compared to those I had in high school 40 years ago. Especially at the begining they are age innapropriate for the development of the children and appear to be designed to make the kids dependant on teachers and to learn to conform to prescribed methodologies. The assurance that times tables would be learned by fifth grade is so weak, a generation ago it was expected by second or third grade. We can do far better than this. Part of our culture is to excel, not to make do with the status quo.
    Sincerely
    Sarah A Dean

    1. http://schools.utah.gov/CURR/mathelem/Core/Utah-Core-Standards-in-Mathematics-Approved-Versio.aspx

      Mathematics | Grade 3
      In Grade 3, instructional time should focus on four critical areas:  (1) developing
      understanding of multiplication and division and strategies for multiplication
      and division within 100; (2) developing understanding of fractions, especially unit
      fractions (fractions with numerator 1); (3) developing understanding of the structure
      of rectangular arrays and of area; and (4) describing and analyzing two-dimensional
      shapes

  4. I also agree. The standards set by Common Core aren’t rigorous, nor do they adequately prepare our children for college, or university attendance. We can do better. We need to provide our children actual opportunities to compete in the market, and this isn’t the way to do it.
    Sincerely,
    Zachary Stucki

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