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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Common Core Math in Texas: Did the TEA Overstep Its Authority On Math Curriculum Standards?
By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D.  -  Part 2 of the Series, “Common Core Math War Rages in Texas”
November 14, 2016   Texas Insider

In Part I of this series, we explored why Dr. James Milgram, one of the national experts for the Texas Math Curriculum Standards review, is so critical of Common Core.  The only math content expert on the Common Core Validation Committee, Milgram refused to approve the Core Math Standards because of their low expectations.  

A major flaw according to Dr. Milgram is that Common Core math includes “most -- but not all -- of Algebra I and about 50% of regular Algebra II as well a ‘strange’ Geometry course.”  Professor Jason Zimba, lead writer of Common Core’s mathematics standards, has admitted that Common Core prepares students only for a two-year college. When asked whether Common Core prepares students for a STEM career, Zimba replied, “Not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges.”

Milgram is a world-renowned research mathematician and Professor Emeritus at Stanford who authored the California math standards, considered the best in the nation.  He reviewed both the first and second drafts of the Texas Math Curriculum Standards.  Writing a post in 2011, he stated that the second draft of the new standards “show[s] every indication of being among the best, if not the best, state standards in the country….they are written to prepare students to both enter the workforce after graduation, and to take calculus in college if not earlier.”  He was euphoric that they reflected the approaches to mathematics education used in high achieving countries.

However, the Texas Education Agency staffers went in a totally different direction – a direction that would include a Common Core format.  It was at that point that Milgram walked away.

How did things go so wrong?  The testimony of Niki Hayes at the September SBOE meeting provides a clue.  Hayes, author and former school principal and math teacher who sat on the math review panel for grades 3-5, went public about the unorthodox behavior of TEA staffers.

Ms. Hayes’ detailed notes of the July 14, 2011 meeting of the TEA Review Committee reveal that TEA staffers had already planned before the meeting to include “process” standards in the standards both separately as well as integrated into the content standards.  Everly Broadway, TEA director of mathematics curriculum, announced to the committee that they were looking at Common Core for a format.  She further added that STAAR tests would be redesigned to assess those math process standards along with content.

Math process standards tell teachers HOW to teach, a serious violation of the Texas law. Under the Education Code, standards can include only the framework for content (what is taught), not instructions for “HOW” to teach the content.  

Ms. Hayes testified that, at another specially called meeting to discuss the organization of the “introductions” within the new TEA document, it was decided that the Common Core model for an introduction to each grade level would be followed. Hayes testified that the TEA Review Committee did not see the completed “introduction” paragraphs until the afternoon of the last meeting date in October, 2011. The committee members were told that it was too late to suggest changes.

Process Standards in Introduction

Here are the TEA’s process standards that precede each grade level.  

(a) Introduction.
‹ snip ›
(2)  The process standards describe ways in which students are expected to engage in the content. The placement of the process standards at the beginning of the knowledge and skills listed for each grade and course is intentional…. The process standards are integrated at every grade level and course….Students will select appropriate tools such as real objects, manipulatives, algorithms, paper and pencil, and technology and techniques such as mental math, estimation, number sense, and generalization and abstraction to solve problems…. Students will display, explain, or justify mathematical ideas and arguments using precise mathematical language in written or oral communication.  (emphasis added)

The introduction acknowledges that placement of the process standards at the beginning of Knowledge and Skills section is intentional. That’s because they used the Common Core format which focuses on process rather than facts.  It is more important to show or tell how one arrives at an answer than whether the answer is correct.  Students are penalized if they get a correct answer but don’t show the correct process.

If you’re wondering why this is a highly significant issue, consider this. Common Core math kids will be designing our future bridges and tall buildings yet correct mathematical solutions will not matter – only what process they use to arrive at an answer.  Public beware!

Randy Houchins, a parent with two children in the Leander Independent School District and highly skilled engineer who uses math in his work, argues that there are often several ways to solve a math problem, and students should not be penalized as long as they know how to figure out the right answer.

Houchins has taken the entire 2014 and 2015 STAAR tests himself. Pointing to the stack of STAAR questions in his hand, he shows a third grade math question that requires students to show six different ways to figure out a multiplication problem.  This is to justify their answer.

Dr. Milgram says having to justify math ideas is the “most idiotic thing he’s ever seen in a set of standards.” He contends that, “You’re [Texas] awfully close to Common Core with what you have now.”

Process Standards in Content

Here is an excerpt from the Kindergarten standards showing integration of the process standards into the content telling teachers HOW to teach the content.

(b)  Knowledge and skills.
(1)  Mathematical process standards. The student uses mathematical processes to acquire and demonstrate mathematical understanding. The student is expected to:
    ‹ snip›
(C)  select tools, including real objects, manipulatives, paper and pencil, and technology as appropriate, and techniques, including mental math, estimation, and number sense as appropriate, to solve problems; also

Charlie Garza, who sat on the SBOE during the math review, contends the math standards approved by the SBOE did not include the process standards.  Ken Mercer, also a Board member, confirmed this.

According to long time SBOE member Geraldine (Tincy) Miller, the SBOE is solely responsible for approving the standards, not the TEA.  So then, who at the TEA authorized the drafting of the Common Core math practices and integration into the content?  Was it Everly Broadway?

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Ruling on Common Core

In June, 2014, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion on the use of Common Core Standards Initiative to teach Texas standards.

"Texas school districts are required to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels, and pursuant to subsection 28.002 (b-3) of the Education Code, they may not use the Common Core State Standards Initiative to comply with this requirement."

Abbott emphasized that even if there is an overlap, “school districts must not use the Common Core Standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in the “essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels.’”

Abbot’s ruling was in response to those who wanted to justify their right to use Common Core aligned instructional materials because they claimed Common Core and the Texas Math TEKS are aligned.

Cathy Moak, Region 6 Education Service Center in Houston, wrote that “68% of the math Common Core and math TEKS align at some point.” Alignment “at some point” can be “anywhere” even though an important math concept may be taught in the TEKS in Grade 1 while that same math concept in the Common Core may not be introduced until Grade 3.

That is not alignment!

The TEA and Education Service Centers (creator of the left wing CSCOPE that still exists in Texas schools) are clearly pushing Common Core in Texas schools and, as such, are violating Texas law.  They are overstepping their authority by meddling with the unauthorized delivery of curriculum standards.

In my next post, I’ll explore what can be done about the math standards shipwreck.  

What you can do:

•    Call or write your SBOE representative: uphold Texas law and remove the Common Core Process Standards from our Math TEKS during the November 16th meeting.

•    Call or write your Texas State Legislators. Let them know you want to: 1) provide a strong academic foundation for our children instead of social engineering, 2) penalize districts that use Common Core, and 3) rein in the subterfuge of the TEA and hold its employees accountable for their actions in adding Common Core to our standards.

                  Texas House     Texas Senate  


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