Last week on the Rod Arquette show, a Judy Park (??? not sure of last name) from the state office of education spoke with Rod concerning the release of the latest PISA scores (http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/) which help show math, reading, and science ability rankings from around the world. The United States was down the list a ways for math and was behind such powerhouse nations as Liechtenstein, Estonia, Iceland, Slovenia, Poland, and Luxembourg (aside from the obvious ones like China and Singapore). We did pull ahead of Qatar and Tunisia thankfully. 🙂 Among the claims made by Judy were the following:
-Utah is above national average in math benchmarking as evidenced by NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores
-The new Common Core standards are something to get excited about and will help the states do better in math
The first one has already been dis-proven a couple years back when Dr. David Wright at BYU showed that since Utah has an over 80% white population, it artificially raises our state average when compared to states that have a much higher minority percentage (minorities tend to score less on standardized tests). He was able to show that when comparing whites to whites, Utah actually ranked 37th and 39th at 4th and 8th grade respectively. This was based on 2005 NAEP data and I would assume nothing has changed since then. This is comparing apples to apples. Utah is NOT above national average.
As for NAEP’s qualifications as a test, several years ago Dr. John Hoven compared U.S. NAEP test questions to those of the world class math leaders. Here are two of his main points from his article (http://edreform.com/_upload/NAEPmath.pdf)
- “My point is simple: There is a chasm of difference in expectations between NAEP and the problems used by world-class mathematics leaders. We expect too little from our children, and by lowering our expectations we lower their incentive to achieve.”
- “NAEP classifies its problems as “easy,” “medium,” or “hard.” I benchmarked the “hard” 8th grade problems, examining NAEP’s highest level of expectation for 8th grade math. Most of these “hard” 8th grade problems are at the level of Singapore’s grade 5 – or lower.”
Now for Judy’s second point on the Common Core standards.
Just a few short years ago, a number of people went through an incredibly difficult process to get the state of Utah to raise it’s math standards. Nobody at the state office or state school board wanted to change from standards that were rated by the Fordham Foundation at a ‘D’ level, and the US Chamber of Commerce rated them a ‘C’. The state board also rejected the notion of just adopting California’s ‘A’ rated standards on the basis that this is Utah and we are somehow unique and different than California so we need our own math standards. No matter that that would have saved us a lot of time and money…
After a lot of work by a lot of legislators, educators, and citizens, Utah capitulated and went through the rewrite process. Upon review, they garnered an ‘A-‘ from the Fordham Foundation. They were pretty good, though still subpar to countries like Singapore that have fewer standards so they can spend more time mastering those concepts. The trite phrase “a mile wide and an inch deep” was referred to repeatedly by educators and board members in this state, but nobody would admit it was indicative of Utah’s current standards that weighed in around 60-70 topics per grade level giving teachers only 2-3 days to cover a topic. In Singapore, they have an average of 9 days to delve into a topic, master it, and then build on it without having to repeat concepts over and over. This chart illustrates time spent per standard. The area of the rectangles roughly match.
So now the Obama administration sets in motion the Common Core standards. States were offered bribe money to “Race to the Top” and be one of the first to adopt. Most states jumped right on the bandwagon including Utah which somehow overcame the difficulty of their prior position that Utah is unique and doesn’t need or want something developed by someone out of our state. Some mathematicians look at the standards and say they’re pretty good. Others are not so excited. What’s the difference? One see the path of the agenda, the other sees a carrot (bribe).
“How can the State Boards of Education make decisions when they haven’t even read the standards? Many state’s Board Members had never been initiated into what was in these documents. What were the policy issues coming out of these documents and whether these analyses truly were in a sense legitimate academic analysis…These are very serious issues about what self- government means at the state and local government level.”–Sandra Stotsky, professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and holds the 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality.
The real danger comes in this way. National standards lead to national tests to ensure the standards are followed. Those are followed by a national curriculum to ensure students are ready for the tests. That is followed by tracking teachers and giving them an incentive to have their students progress well. That means teachers and students are tracked in a national database. That opens the door to the government indoctrinating in the classroom through test questions, curriculum, and teacher merit pay based on how well their students test ACCORDING TO TESTS WRITTEN BY THE GOVERNMENT. This is extraordinarily dangerous to our freedom and future. Teachers teach to the test. If the assessments are geared toward social justice, constructivist style questions, it will further the deliberate dumbing down of American students in preparation for a government mandated future.
Here’s the kicker. Someone recently posted a quote on Save Alpine School District .com from John Goodlad’s book Developing Democratic Character in the Young (pp. 161) as saying “the current demand for unprecedented levels of academic achievement is getting in the way of [our] humanistic purposes.”
This is all part of the plan of the progressive educators like Goodlad and Noddings. They don’t care about academic performance. Their emphasis is on creating democratic citizens that are fully enculturated into a social and political democracy. You may think schooling is non-partisan and non-political, but in this same book’s preface you will find Goodlad in disagreement stating, “Schooling is a practical, political affair.” They know their purpose and it is not academic excellence. It is the subjugation of a nation by turning them into obedient little automatons. This is why Goodlad had Marxist revolutionary Bill Ayers speak as the keynote speaker in Goodlad’s NNER conference in October 2010.
How important is math to America? We aren’t competing against China anymore, we’re competing against the top students in China. Until Utah’s education system and legislature take this seriously, we’ll continue to slide all the while touting how great we are doing for the amount of money we’re spending. I’ve got news for you Utah, plenty of other countries spend less money than Utah and outperform us. Why? Real standards and real curriculum. It’s time to pilot Singapore math in Utah and replicate the success of Benchmark Charter School in Arizona where 94% of all students say math is their favorite class and they prove it by being the top scoring school in the state.