I know some of you are wondering what corner of the earth I dropped off of (or took refuge in).  I’m equally sure there are plenty of people who are glad they don’t have to hear any more from me – and are probably hoping this is a permanent situation.  I hate to disappoint, but I’m still watching and observing – from a sane distance.

I noticed after the recent BESE and Governor’s elections that the anti-reform camps were devolving.  This seemed to be happening along party lines, and I wanted no part of that.  I worked hard to build a coalition of voices and I was sad to see it fracturing in the aftermath of John Bel Edward’s election and his subsequent BESE selections that left many in the crossover conservative/Republican/Libertarian/Independent/Anti-CC camps feeling betrayed and those in the Liberal, Democrat, pro-union, CC indifferent camps overly-aggressive and defensive. With my style of writing, and proclivity for writing passionately (maybe even a tad hot-headed), I felt it best to take some time off and simply observe interactions and outcomes and watch where people chose to align themselves.  I chose to disengage and cultivate my detachment. Being intensely involved with groups with objectives and their own points of view would have colored my opinions and hindered this process for me. Additionally, there was that whole 3 billion dollar budget deficit thing some of you might have heard of over the past few months.  I could see that was sucking all the air out of the room (as well it should have.)  That is/was a serious problem for our state with significant implications for k-12 and postsecondary education.

In this off time I have been working on some neglected aspects of my life that needed more attention than I was able to give while I was trying to run a political campaign and support a growing movement.  I still had a finite amount of time to do everything in my life, so some things just did not get done.  Without going into details, this caused a few personal problems I’ve had to clean up, and am still cleaning up.  I’m hoping a significant portion of that “cleanup” will be complete in the next month – which should free up some more time for me and other pursuits like blogging and activism because it seems like there are still many people without a voice or champion for their problems.

Yesterday some of the security folks and a receptionist at my office asked me a few questions about Common Core and the new LEAP tests.  They had seen my signs around town and seen me in suits over the past year and knew I had some knowledge of things in the education arena.  They have kids in public schools in various parishes so they have Common Core and PARCC tests too, and they hate them.  I don’t like to tell people my stand on those things until I hear their opinions.  (I try to gather opinions from folks without imparting my biases on them first.  I keep tabs on issues and how people from different backgrounds are feeling about different education policies.  Sometimes they have unique perspectives, and sometimes they tell me about new problems, benefits, or implications that are subtler and which I hadn’t heard about or considered before.  They asked me if it was true that Common Core was being replaced with something much better, like they had read in the newspaper.  They asked me about the new L.E.A.P. tests that the state was administering and if those would be an improvement from PARCC, or from whatever we had last year.  Sadly I had to tell them that those were simply name changes and that the content was likely to be 99% the same.

There’s still a lot of people that don’t really know what’s really going on.  I read about different aspects of the situation but I rarely see a cohesive whole discussed anywhere, or if I do it’s the slanted company line. I have seen some pretty good summaries on Michael Deshotels’ blog, http://www.louisianaeducator.blogspot.com (I strongly recommend it for keeping with the play by play education situation), but nothing in more traditional sources.

For instance, many people think Common Core is going away, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Common Core is more than a set of standards now. Now CC is an important part of the national Educational Industrial Complex.  Without something very drastic happening we are stuck with it and the silly garbage and explosive costs that go along with it.

Take for example this Common Core, Eureka Math worksheet below.


This was one of the assignments given to my first grader from the only LDOE Tier One approved mathematics curriculum vendors (Eureka/Engage NY/Greatminds – they keep changing their name to outrun all the bad reviews on their product). It has complicated instructions I would imagine most first graders would have trouble understanding.  If they asked their parents about this worksheet (like mine did) they have no idea what these jargon laden strategies mean listed in the top right box (except for the helpful “I just knew”) answer.  What’s even more frustrating to both parents and children is that the examples are solved incorrectly.  The first one shows an equation of 13-6 = 4 and then provides work to back up the answer.  I tried several times to explain to my son that the first one was wrong, and to explain he was supposed to document this and show the correct answer, but he was confused by the whole process and examples and we both gave up after some frustrating back and forth.

I understand what the CC folks are trying to accomplish, but I don’t believe this is the right way to do it. . .  Unless their intent is to make math more frustrating and thereby dissuading future generations from going into fields heavy in mathematics. My son’s favorite subject used to be math, and instead of reading at night before bed he used to discuss mathematical concepts with me and try to practice doing problems in his head.  He especially liked discussing the concept of infinity.  We don’t do math anymore at bedtime – or any other time during the day.  His new favorite subject is reading.  On the one side that’s great, because he was lagging behind in his reading skills and needed to practice them more, but on the other, that seems like the exact opposite of what pro-CC folks are trying to accomplish.  However I guess I have them to thank my kids’ love of reading.  Unfortunately I have them to thank for their hatred of math as well.

Yes, both my kids hate math now.

My daughter is in third grade now and much of her math revolves around multiplication. Unfortunately Common Core did away with the memorization of multiplication tables and introduced putting hundreds of dots on pages to represent multiplication – through addition.  8 x 9 equals 8 rows of 9 dots instead of 72.  Fun, right?

Now try checking someone’s multiplication (or addition work) with those types of strategies using dots, or pictures like the ones shown above.  Or in this case, require kids to check problems using the strategies I’ve shown or discussed.  Watching paint dry is waaaaaay more interesting than that.  I do hear stories about kids that finally understand math the CC way, and love it.  I have to wonder though, are those the kids (like Olivia in the example above) that we really want designing the bridges, skyscrapers, and airplanes of the future?

This summer we will have to teach my daughter her multiplication tables, and probably cursive writing, ourselves.  Those are subjects that were removed by Common Core and not replaced by the revision committee.  Very little was changed by the revision committee.  The Louisiana committee that was created and assigned the task of reviewing Common Core standards and developing Louisiana standards from them was more than 90% composed of staunch Common Core supporters who simply wanted to provide the Louisiana seal of approval.  Of the few unbiased folks that were on the committee, many resigned in frustration, rather than continue to participate in a Kangaroo review committee created to solve political impasses, not curriculum flaws.

Eureka and Engage New York are not going away.  The tests used to evaluate students and teachers on how well student’s have mastered these “strategies” are not going away either.

President Eisenhower referred to a growing fascist flaw in our system of government he described as the military-industrial complex in his farewell address January 17, 1961. (It’s also sometimes called the military-industrial-congressional complex to be more precise in a US context.) The idea behind the MICC is a three-sided “Iron triangle” around which government policy is really determined outside of the influence of ordinary citizens. Industry provides money to political candidates, who in turn approve policies and spending that support and enrich industry. To provide industry and congress with cover a government funded bureaucracy is created and charged with “overseeing” and distributing the spending (this bureaucracy is led by political appointees who have the political goal of preventing others from interfering with this arrangement.)

Today we have an Educational Industrial Complex but unlike the military industrial one, it is not limited to Congress. In Louisiana this lobby invests in state representatives and senators, as well as State and local school board representatives. In many states, like Louisiana, the EIC has seized control of state departments of education and over the course of the last two presidential terms the EIC has entirely co-opted the US Department of Education.

No single election or committee can stop this perversion of government and industry, and their bastard children of, USED, Common Core, PARCC, Eureka, and Smarter Balanced. Until people start to understand just how deep and complex this problem is the EIC can’t be stopped, at best we can get a brief reprieve by diverting their flow of corruption.




7 thoughts on “Sorry I’ve been away so long. . .

  1. I’ve been trying to explain to people for quite a while now that what you call the EIC is reallly gunning for what I call the Defense Industry Model (DIM, simply because that’s the sweetest of the sweetheart deals on the planet. It’s no accident that it all began with that Nation At Risk spiel.

  2. They are basically the same. The problem goes beyond Common Core, Charter Schools and testing. Our government becomes more and more corrupt and more opportunities arise for unscrupulous politicians, corporations, and individuals to profit on the taxpayers’ dime.

  3. I know you despise Common Core in general and Eureka/Engage/whatever in particular. I’ve had some limited experience with the high school Eureka stuff for grades 9-11 and was less than thrilled, particularly for the district in question, where the required literacy level was far too high (and that’s only part of the problem).

    That said, I think you’re unreasonable in much of what you say here. In particular, you seem miffed that kids are asked to evaluate the work of others. Yet that is a key principle not only in the Standards for Mathematical Practice, but in the NCTM Standards upon which much of that part of the Common Core Math was built. And I have no problem at all with the notion that kids from early on should be thinking about both their own ideas and those presented to them, be those from peers, books, teachers, or what-have-you. What, exactly, can be wrong with encouraging students not to be passive consumers of other people’s claims and thinking, and lazy presenters of their own, unexamined, thoughts?

    So one strategy given is wrong. The other is correct. Why should a kid who is learning arithmetic not be expected to: 1) decide if 13 – 6 is 4 or not; 2) decide if the work given to support that answer is sensible or not; 3) decide for the other answer and work; and 4) offer another way to get the right answer, regardless of whether the original ones are correct or not?

    Let’s get away from arguing politics or this curriculum and focus on what is good mathematics teaching, what we want kids to be able to do, and what we can do to help them get there. I don’t give a damn about the Eureka crap at this point. Where it’s good, I would use it and support others trying to use it; where it’s bad, I’d work around it. How is that any different than any other text? I do it in my own work with a Pearson intermediate algebra book and materials with adults. I correct errors, change the order of topics, entire chapters, etc. My students, unfortunately, are already passive thanks to their 13 or more years of US math education. I try to get them to think and express their thinking, but it’s a tough sell. I believe they’d have been better off with the sort of thing you seem to be decrying in this post, and I think your objections are deeply colored by many things that are only peripherally related to the specifics on that page you’ve shown. Can you step outside of them to have a critical conversation about math and math teaching?

    1. As I said, I understand what they are trying to accomplish. I don’t disagree with teaching kids to review other kids work (or their own) in principle. I have a problem with Eureka and a problem that no other math was found suitable, which I find hard to believe.

      I actually do many of the shortcut calculation tricks, they are trying to teach kids to do formally, in my head. I did not have Common Core. I can review all my kids answers by sight and see which are wrong, also w/o Common Core training. Miraculous, i know. How can this be? CC and the tests teach kids that the strategies (that i think most people develop on their own) are more important than the answers. That’s backwards to me. Additionally kids can help other kid’s work without CC methodology, believe it or not. My kids are in a Montisori modeled program where kids in multiple grade levels are in the same class and the older ones help the younger ones with their assignments. I have very specific problems with specific examples and lapses and most folks that support CC, like you, choose to ignore my specific issues and blame my disgust on politics, when really it’s on your dismissive attitude towards me/us. This has become a divisive topic because so many choose to pat us on the head or flaunt their years of experience rather than actually listen. That’s why I think the whole kit and kaboodle needs to be ditched, not because it’s all bad, but because of the arrogance of supporters that tell us it’s for our own good, or they wish their current students had the benefit of this. Consider that you may be creating a whole slew of other problems you will discover in another 10 years and decide you need a new, new change in philosophy. Parents are seeing problems now and reporting them and folks like you are telling us just to be patient, it will all work out, trust us. This has never been done before and you have no idea what the ultimate student “products” will look like after this experiment. Your experiment, your pupils are our kids. This problem in particular uses words that my son did not understand and shows a bunch of gibberish that is supposed to look like “work”. This problem belongs in a student teacher’s workbook/test not my kid’s first grade homework. If you all did more listening to what we’re saying instead of always talking over us you might have freaked people out less and built an honest dialog instead of what we have now – which is a lack of trust and pent up frustration and lack of willingness to compromise.

  4. STUCK is right. We have managed to get ourselves into such a fix that we can no longer extricate our public school system from the reformers, testing companies, technology investors (ah, well the list goes on and on….) who all want a piece of the “accountability” pie.

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