Why Did NH Adopt Common Core Math Standards?

In his latest blog post, Mr. Bill Duncan, the activist state Board of Education member, claims that Common Core math standards help students to overcome their “math phobia.” He also marginalizes people who oppose Common Core standards without acknowledging any substance of their concerns. His continued willful ignorance is astounding. Professionals in various STEM industries and education experts across the country have criticized the Common Core math standards as poor and lacking substance.

Professor James Milgram of Stanford University, was the only mathematician on the original Common Core math standards validation committee. He refused to approve them and has been outspoken against the acceptance and implementation of them.

“Common Core math standards are a major step backwards. With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards end after Algebra II. They include no precalculus or calculus.”

Professor Milgram is not the only expert to criticize these experimental math standards. After analyzing three different studies on Common Core math standards, Mr. Ze’ev Wurman, a former US Department of Education official, said that Common Core standards “may be higher than some state standards, but they are certainly lower than the best of them.”

Mr. Wurman also remarked, “Unfortunately, the main authors of the Common Core mathematics standards had minimal prior experience with writing standards, and it shows. While they may have had a long and distinguished list of advisers, they did not seem to have sufficient experience to select the wheat from the chaff. How, otherwise, can one explain their selecting an experimental approach to geometry, teaching it on the basis of rigid motions, that has not been successfully tried anywhere in the world? Simple prudence and an ounce of experience would tell them either to stick to what is known to work or to recommend a trial phase before foisting it sight-unseen on a nation of 300 million.”

While the Common Core math standards may be an improvement for some states, why are they forced upon all?

According to the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test, an international exam for mathematics, New Hampshire ranked tenth internationally and fifth in the United States behind Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, and the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Clearly Granite State students are competing well before the introduction of Common Core math into our school system.

Another criticism of Common Core math is that it is a return to a failed math reform of 50 years ago. Like the “new math” of the 1960s, Common Core math emphasizes concepts and theories instead of computation. It was a dismal failure then and ruined a generation of students’ mathematical potential and knowledge.

These inferior math standards also have a profound impact on science. Note that the state Board of Education is poised to implement the Next Generation Science Standards very shortly. In cooperation with the NH Department of Education, they promised the US DOE they would implement the Next Generation Science Standards no later than 2014 in order to obtain a waiver from No Child Left Behind. These are Common Core science standards, but without the toxic name. We outlined the gross failures of the Next Generation Science Standards in a post earlier this year.

Notice that these mediocre standards are a de facto requirement in all NH public schools because the mandated test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA), is aligned to Common Core. The NH Department of Education is responsible for mandating the SBA and signed the contract that obligates New Hampshire to use this experimental assessment.

This begs the question why the state Department of Education would commit New Hampshire to the SBA and Common Core. It may be explained by the fact that the state DOE receives 85% of their funding from the US DOE according to a recent WMUR interview with Commissioner Dr. Virginia Barry. This is a concerning relationship and it certainly is not favorable to local control.

Over the past two years, several districts — Manchester, Dover, Londonderry, and Alton — have been considering options to the state’s testing requirement in anticipation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Spring 2015 implementation date. In September 2013 Commissioner Barry informed parents and local superintendents that waivers were possible. However, at the December 16, 2014 state BOE meeting, Commissioner Barry stated that there will be no waivers from the Smarter Balanced Assessment. She also expressly denied all waiver requests to use an alternative assessment unless every district in the state used the same one.

In response the Manchester School District wrote a letter to the state DOE inquiring whether their funding would be jeopardized if they do not comply, but use an alternative as duly directed by their local school board.

Manchester School District letter to state DOE re Smarter Balanced Assessment and Withholding Funds Dec 2014

Although states and local districts have been threatened with federal fund cuts, not a single district has actually had their funding reduced for not using the Common Core aligned assessments or parents boycotting their child’s participation.

Why is our state DOE denying local districts waivers to the SBA? Why are they trying to intimidate districts into compliance? Why have they told parents that they cannot opt-out of the state assessment? Why are they pushing forward with the US DOE’s agenda against local districts? This is not local control, and there is no legal standing for their demands.

The solution to Common Core is for local school boards and parents to stand up to the state BOE and DOE. Although they are threatened with the loss of federal funding, some local districts have done the math and calculate that the implementation of SBA and associated curricular materials, teacher training,  and tech improvements cost more than they receive in financial assistance.

School boards and parents are like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. They have the power to change their destiny if they would only use it.