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Common Core Math in Texas?  And Why Has the SBOE Done Nothing to Resolve the Issue?
By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. Part 4 of the Series: “SBOE kicks Common Core Math down the road”
December 6, 2016  Texas Insider

On November 16, 2016 the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) heard still more testimony about the Common Core process standards that are deeply embedded within the current 2012 SBOE adopted math standards. After several years of public rage over Common Core being found in instructional materials and on STAAR tests despite Texas law, one has to wonder why the SBOE has done nothing to resolve the issue.

Dr. James Milgram, world-renowned research mathematician and Professor Emeritus at Stanford, reviewed both the first and second drafts of the 2012 Texas Math Curriculum Standards. He had publicly declared that the second draft showed every indication of being among the best, if not the best, state math standards in the country.

During his November testimony, Milgram said the final draft in 2012 was dramatically altered in the final version he received from the TEA. A Common Core format had been added and pure math content reduced. Milgram called the Governor about the radical changes and spoke with Ms. Everly Broadway, TEA director of mathematics curriculum.  When the radical document remained in place, Dr. Milgram walked away, as did the other national expert reviewers.

Milgram provided to the SBOE members an analysis of the current first and fourth grade math standards.  He illustrated how some were “total messes” while some were far too general to even correct.  Others had “nothing to do with mathematics but everything to do with social engineering” and were inappropriate for the grade level.

Niki Hayes, review panel member and math teacher, decided not to walk away and instead continued to fight on.   She also testified at the November meeting that the Common Core-compliant process standards require students to know all the six to seven ways a math problem can be solved rather than teaching students the traditional way and having them arrive at the right answer.  By forcing teachers to teach the numerous ways, valuable class time is consumed; students are confused; and they do not have time to practice the traditional way until they become proficient.

For example, one Common Core-aligned first grade math book that is being used in Texas has 741 pages. In most lessons, students are instructed to “draw a picture, write a story, and explain” their answer to the problem. It is impossible for a teacher to cover 700+ pages for a first grade class – it’s impossible even for a high school class.

Also testifying at the November meeting was Randy Houchins, a parent with two children in the Leander Independent School District and a highly skilled engineer who uses math in his work.  Houchins presented an extensive analysis of the 2016 Math STAAR Assessments for 3rd grade through Algebra I.  He provided numerous examples of methodology test questions that do nothing to further students’ math proficiency and none that offer skills upon which to progress to higher mathematics.

Here’s the crux of the problem. 

Under the Texas Education Code, methodology -- telling teachers HOW to teach -- cannot be included in our curriculum standards.  Common Core Process Standards are methodology. 

Milgram, Hayes, and Houchins all provided extensive examples showing the way that the problem can be addressed temporarily until the next Math TEKS review in 2020.  The Common Core Process Standards can be stripped out, leaving the pure math content which, according to Milgram, will still need to be strengthened.  Several members offered that students need to learn conceptual math -- taught through the process standards -- at which point Milgram retorted that he does not understand the term because he deals with “provable assumptions.”

Milgram offered his services as well as those of other experts to strengthen the content once the processes are removed.  Hayes assured the SBOE members that “teachers will rise to the challenge of adding solid material that is needed if it is not covered in the stripped-down TEKS content standards until the document is addressed again in 2020.”

Yet Rome burns while the SBOE dithers.

Rather than making a decision to provide a short term solution, they kicked the can down the road to the April meeting. What happens then?  Kick the can down the road to 2020?

Yes, the English/Language Arts/Reading review is underway and will require much time in the January 2017 meeting.  But what else can be said about the math standards that hasn’t already been said? It appears the SBOE is more concerned about admitting to the public that the standards are a disaster than about addressing a temporary solution.  They need to man up and take a stand on this issue instead of listening to special interest groups.

They should agree on day one in their January meeting to allow Milgram, Hayes, and Houchins to prepare a draft that strips out the illegal process standards with that document being presented in the April meeting for a final vote to move forward.

Once the time-consuming and confusing process standards are removed, teachers will be able to cover the math content and choose the most effective methods that best fit their students.

The SBOE needs to do what is best for Texas students, instead of protecting self-egos and pandering to special interest groups (including elementary teacher associations, teacher training programs with vested interests in promoting reform methods, and textbook publishers with bloated and costly materials that focus on activities/methods).

What you can do:
•    Call or write your SBOE representative and tell them you expect them to uphold Texas law and in the January meeting to task Milgram, Hayes, and Houchins to prepare a draft, removing the Common Core Process Standards (a.k.a., methodology) from our Math TEKS.

View the 11.16.16 – Testimony in front of the Texas State Board of Education – Re:  Math TEKS (curriculum standards) and STAAR/End-of-Course Tests
Part 1 – Dr. Jim Milgram (renowned professor of mathematics at Stanford University) – marker 1:35:50 – 3:00:32 -- http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea/committee_of_the_full_board/20161116/1/
Part 1 – Niki Hayes (long-time math educator, principal, standards expert, author) – marker 1:02:35 – 1:26:21 -- http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea/committee_of_the_full_board/20161116/2/
Part 2 – Randy Houchins (experienced engineer and concerned parent) – marker 2:46:15 – 3:10:43 -- http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea/committee_of_the_full_board/20161116/2/

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