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Educators parse new state math standards

Original post made on Mar 27, 2013

Concerns about new state standards in mathematics on the horizon for 2014 attracted 300 local educators to a gathering Tuesday to explore the potential impact.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:49 AM

Comments (23)

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Posted by Raising-The-Bar--Or-Lowering-It?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:14 am

Without actually taking the time to read the Common Core Standards, it’s difficult to know what this change in the point-of-view, and content presented to students, amounts up to.

Most people associated with the previous California standards adoption seemed pretty happy with their work, at the time. Can only wonder if these Common Core Standards are better, or different.

Certainly the adoption of Every Day Math a couple of years ago has not provided us any evidence that PAUSD students are better off under that approach, than the previous one.

Math is increasingly important. Yet, the Legislature just recently dropped the requirement for 8th Graders to take Algebra I:

Web Link

This action by the Legislature seemed to be lowering the bar, not raising it.

How with the State/PAUSD explain these changes to the parents, and communities funding the schools?

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Posted by Zeev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

I just wanted to correct a factual matter.

"The Common Core State Standards are an initiative of the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers."

The Common Core Standards are indeed officially the initiative of NGA and CCSSO, two private trade organizations -- even if with highfalutin names -- located in Washington, DC. The were funded and promoted through over $150M grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and rapidly pushed on the states in the summer of 2010 via the federal Race to the Top program. The federal government also funded their national assessment to the tune of $350 million, and cemented their acceptance by tying it to the NCLB waivers and administration's NCLB re-authorization proposal.

In other words, pretending that they were in any serious way state-led rather than a federally-sponsored is akin to believing in tooth fairies.

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Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

So, once again legislation is originated by trade organizations. They can only be focused on the production of ever more ready employees by companies who no longer train their own employees.

I think it is a BIG mistake to head our schools toward producing employees. That excludes the purpose of teaching children about their culture and their language (language deficits are already apparent). It will edge out learning about the history of our government and our society. We used to send children to college to "finish" their education and prepare them for adulthood and citizenship in addition to employment. Have you been to college? Do you know how many senators we have? Why we have a Senate and a House of Representatives. Know anything about molecules? How vaccination works? What do we use petroleum for besides unleaded gas?

While I'm no rah-rah-America-at all-costs, I do believe that being an informed citizen will be crucial as we march into our fraught future. Those who feel having a job is the only goal see only half the predicament that will face our children.

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Posted by Bruce William Smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Our children, at least a significant proportion of them and perhaps all, are going to be in a predicament if these Common Core mathematics standards are implemented as currently written, which appears extremely likely. Despite the mandate given to their authors, these standards are not competitive with those being met by our competitors across the Pacific, "Singapore, Japan and other high-performing countries." I know; I have used the actual standards that are implemented in those countries in developing the mathematics and science curricula for the school I have been attempting to start in California, One World Secondary School. In brief, the curriculum for the college-bound students in those countries have them studying calculus in the 11th grade; the Common Core has ours doing it two years later than theirs do, and we will continue to be embarrassed by international tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment even after the Common Core is implemented and even if it is implemented with fidelity.

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Posted by Raising-The-Bar--Or-Lowering-It?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Talking about Bill Gates--seems he has funded a database for tracking student performance:

This seems pretty creepy, since the School Districts seem to have the power to give away to Gates (or his factotums) confidential student information--without any right-of-refusal retained by the parents.

This is not good--and probably shows Gates' true stripes more than anything he has done lately.

California has been working on a state-wide lingitudinal database for California students. It's not clear when they will be finished, what yearly extensions can be expected by school administrators, or just how useful this information will be. It's also not clear how much, if any, of this infromation will be accessible to the public.

In theory, this is a good idea. Unfortunately, it has taken too long to implement the software.

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Posted by An Engineer
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm

What's all the fuss? Math/sciences advances are made by the top 1% (3-sigma) of the population, not by the average student. These motivated few will learn what they need to know regardless of (or despite) the school cirriculum.

For national math/science pre-minence we need to furnish a proper professional environment for our producers, including funding, facilities, and respect. America will lose its stature to extent it fails this necessity.

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Posted by peripheral observer
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I heard that the math standards require a computer for every student. Is that accurate?

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Posted by Derek
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I believe the assessments will be done online. Having seen many students forced to take Algebra in 8th grade and fail it, I believe this is a huge step in the right direction. To address an earlier concern about producing employees: it isn't about teaching them a trade at the expense of knowledge and a love of learning. The common core should bring more coherence to the k-8 math program. It focuses on more discussion, student explanations, and projects. Stuff that makes the math understandable and real, not "magic" that only a select few can do.

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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm

@Zeev Wurman & @jb - Why do you call them private trade organizations? They are both non-profits representing public officials. The NGA represents state governors, the Council of Chief State Schools Officers California representative is Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Schools.

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Posted by Education-Is-An-Industry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 6:31 pm

> What makes you believe that these organizations are “trade organizations”?

Why not look at this web-site for some clues as to why these folks are very likely to be a trade organization—

Council of Chief State Schools Officers:
Web Link

CCSSO Corporate Partners:
Web Link

Notice that there is no annual report with a budget on this site. That’s a pretty good indication that it is private, and that the “schools chiefs” don’t really care whether or not the budget is public.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm

My son was in Algebra 1 in the higher lane in 7th grade, which lead to Algebra in 8th grade. Both years were insane, with 30 math problems per night. Clearly, not a class for all students, even our smarter-than-the-average-American children in Palo Alto. He earned "A"s in 7th, then "B"s and "C"s in 8th grade. At that point, we allowed him to move to the regular lane of Pre-Algebra in 8th grade because he became burnt out on working so hard for one class. The pre-Algebra lane was the opposite extreme, too easy, with 10-15 easy problems per night. There is no middle lane at Jordan and the higher lane math students will divide to the highest and second highest lane when they reach Paly. It seems that the higher lane at Jordan is teaching to the highest lane at Paly, the lane which most students will not enroll in.

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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm

@Education-Is-An-Industry - CCSSO is a non profit funded partially by the 46 states who are members. And they get a bunch of money from corporations like just about every other non-profit. It doesn't make them private. You can go read their 990 filing with the IRS if you want.

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Posted by Education-Is-An-Industry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:07 pm

> CCSSO is a non profit funded partially by
> the 46 states who are members.

And being a non-profit does not make it public, either.

Non-profits are not subject to public information requests—although they could honor such requests if they wanted to.

Submitting to IRS reporting is another example of this organization’s being more private than not.

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Posted by Zeev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 28, 2013 at 12:42 am


Private organizations can be for profit, or not for profit. The previous commenter correctly observed that private organization are not subject to FOIA and various other sunshine laws. They also don't need to follow civic procedures, hold public meetings, publish minutes, respond to comments, etc. Think Chamber of Commerce.

As another example, the membership for NGA fees are paid individually by the governors, not by the states. Some get their state to reimburse them, some do not. Similarly, CCSSO does not publish the states that are its due-paying members. A few year back Texas withdrew, yet CCSSO never published this fact. I believe there are a few other states that do not pay their CCSSO dues but it is impossible to verify which.

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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:24 pm

@Zeev Wurman - You make it sound much more secretive than it is. All 50 states were members until texas puled out. You can see all the members, one by one, here:

Web Link

You obviously have a beef with the standards, why don't you just make your argument instead of slinging innuendo.

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Posted by Education-Is-An-Industry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm

> you have a beef with standards ..

Hmmm .. wonder if this poster has paid much attention to the "standards wars" here in California?

While Mr. Wurman is clearly capable of speaking for himself, it's a shame that so many people in this town, who claim to be so well educated, seem to know so little about education.

The following is a transcript of Mr. Wurman testifying about his reasons for not supporting Common Core--

Ze’ev Wurman official testimony in SB193:
Web Link

Notice that Mr. Wurman served on the California Accademic Content Standards Committee--so what's the likelihood that Mr. Wurman has a "beef with standards"?

If this poster were to read through Mr. Wurman's thoughts in his testimony--then we can begin a serious discussion. Otherwise, this poster's comments don't amount up to much.

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Posted by a parent
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2013 at 9:04 am

I studied Common core in details and talked with people who "experienced" it in other states, where it is in place for some time. It is a case when specifications a written with good intent, and but the implementation is a complete failure. Everybody is horrified. Some families consider leaving USA and looking now for employment in other countries to make sure their children are getting proper education and that they are not "tracked" in the common database. What is scary is not just that Common Core is a failure, but that the way with which it is propagated by destroying the traditions and culture forcefully is alike to conquistadors bringing "good" to other nations with sword and gun. Such efforts never bring positive results, and the progeny always will remember such "beneficiaries" with deep sense of shame. It is an unforgivable venture. The teachers complain, the students don't want to go to school anymore. I think we can count on fingers (or point fingers to) a very few people who are actualy benefited by this new approach.
There is an old Russian joke coming from times of Brezhnev when in Russia the propaganda had a slogan which was displayed in red on all the buildings "Everything is for The People's benevolence" and a villager who came to Red Square and saw Brezhnev and other Russian government members for the first time exclamed :"Now I know who these people are!"

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Posted by Zeev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm

@Mr. Recycle,

I find it quite funny for someone hiding behind a pseudonym to complain about "innuendos."

Be it as it may, I don't see the innuendos ... except yours. I stated that NGA and CCSSO are private trade organizations. Should I have described them more pointedly as "private Washington lobbying organizations"? Because that is exactly what they are.

Regarding CCSSO membership, how can one guess from the web page which states or entities are CCSSO members in good standing (in other words, due-paying)? One cannot. If you can, I will be happy to be educated. If you refer to NGA/CCSSO abiding by civic processes, perhaps their 5-6 page detail-less summary of over 10,000 comments is your idea of transparency? Or perhaps it is their never mentioning that 5 members of their own validation committee refused to sign-off on the Common Core standards, including both of its two standards-content experts?

Incidentally, the materials from the Algebra Forum are now posted on-line here: Web Link#

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Posted by Rosaline
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm

I'm African American; have no idea why someone has to have pity on us by giving us some DUMB math program! My kids aren't stupid! Two of my sons did just fine in the highest track of algebra in grade 7 and 8 and they wanna go on studying harder math. Why close a good class if some kid got a C? Color is skin deep. If you don't have brains or you're just plain lazy then money won't help. Rich kids can go take a costly tutor, but not my kids. If there aren't any math classes at school, then what can we do? These rich white men, they made this second-hand-goodwill-store program that they call common core, but it's no good for common people like us.
They have money, they want more. We don't have money but we got heart and we got brains and we got smart kids who aren't spoiled by an easy life. Why give us this trash? Give us good math classes. You can't cheat us. You can't give no respect to us.

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Posted by albert einstein
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2013 at 11:43 pm

There is a myth that I failed math. Not true. I still ended up making a reasonable contribution to science but only because my first wife and many colleagues occasionally had to check for errors, which were plentiful. The issue was I didn't like my teachers much, really...that was the real issue, much like today in which a handful of insensitive teachers seem completely unaware of the implications of their actions on the young people they work with. There may be math content experts out there but preciously undereducated themselves in actual teaching and learning of their "expertise." Whatever the new standards are is really irrelevant because it takes more than possessing a credential to be effective and it takes more than creating a standard to get students to possess the skill associated with the intent of that standard. Luckily, I found joy in physics before math teachers destroyed my interest further.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Because we have 50 separate state systems of education—all with their own standards--attempts to compare the academic performance of students at a national level is almost impossible. Therefore, the idea of a “common core” might seem reasonable—if it were designed to raise the bar of academic performance over the next fifty years—rather than effectively lower it, so that certain historically low performing sub-groups are not “left behind” as the majority continues to increase its performance.

It’s interesting to me that while people in Palo Alto can go on for hours about “bullying”, or “the Superintendent”—there is never any meaningful discussion about the essence of education—content.

California has, for over a decade now, created standards for education which would seem to be highly regarded by education professionals. But what about the rest of us? How many parents have take the time to actually read the Standards? How many of us understand the California standards? And how many of us will take the time to read the Common Core standards? How many will even ask the question—how do education standards come to be approved? What is the process? Is their much accountability in the process, or is it something that “the State” has a right to control with no accountability to California’s citizens and businesses?

What the schools are teaching our children should be of importance to every one. Yet, it’s hard to believe that one person in a thousand here in Palo Alto can speak to any of the current standards that define our collective education.

For a town that claims to value education so much—something is very wrong here.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2013 at 1:40 pm

> If there aren't any math classes at school, then what can we do?

Education is not something that the State hands you on a plate—it is something that you achieve for yourself. Education does not provide you the solution to all of life’s problems—instead, it provides tools, like critical thinking, to aid you in solving your problems yourself. Sadly, the system has tricked far too many people into believing that if society would just continue throwing money at “the schools” that all of their problems would be solved. This has proven to be a failed solution to “education”.

So, what can you do if you think that there are no good math classes at your kids’ school? There are a great many things you can do—but all of those things require parental involvement—your involvement--at every level of the solution.

Defining The Problem

Since “good” is a subjective term, it would be necessary to compare math classes at your school to all of the math classes in the surrounding schools. That would require reviewing the content of these classes, such as a close comparison of the course outlines. The teaching qualifications for teachers in the Math program would be helpful. The results of the standardized testing for these classes would be helpful, if it can be obtained. Also, obtaining the pass/fail rates for each of these classes—which the schools should be willing to provide for this sort of exercise.

At some point, there should be enough information available to present a good case that there are problems with the math offerings in your school—if such a problem really exists.

Solving The Problem

Path I—School District Action

Assuming that the parents can show that there is a problem, a report of their investigation should be presented to the School Board—with the expectation of action.

Path II—Extra Ordinary Action

Assuming that the School District does not immediately respond to your requests in dealing with this problem, local resources should be drawn upon. There are within any community, people who are able to teach simple mathematics courses. There is also self-teaching courseware that can be found in print form, or these days, on-line. Within the past five years, we have seen the Kahn Academy emerge as a source of on-line teaching. While Kahn Academy might not fully satisfy the needs of a specific group at a specific time—it’s a great place to start looking for examples of on-line education.

Local churches, or social organizations—from the YMCA to various business groups, are also a source of “contracts” to look for individuals who might be interested in “giving back” for a few months by helping to evaluate local math department deficiencies to creating content for a private math “program” that would augment the school district’s offerings.

Some of this effort might require funding. Certainly there are lots of ways to raise funds these days, for car washes to appeals to local billionaires for help. It would be difficult to believe that committed parents in this area would not be able to raise upwards of $100,000 to fund this sort of effort.

And clearly, there will need to be a lot of people joining together long enough to develop a comprehensive definition/solution to this problem. This will require a certain amount of political leadership.

Path II suggests a lot of work. Depending on the interest in math in your, this might be a bar too high. However, without at least running the “Define The Problem” exercise, you will not have any idea if you have a problem at your school, or not. One the first part is completed, you will have a much clearer vision of whether to attempt the correct action, or not.


No doubt this sort of proposal will horrify people who have been “educated” by a system that has not focused on empowering each of us, as individuals. Certainly with 47% of the US on food stamps, the idea of personal responsibility has been trampled down to a point that maybe those characteristics of the American people that made this a great nation are not to be found in far too many people.

But if parents in a school district who believe that their children are underserved were to recognize that the School District does not “own” education—then they can create the necessary augmentation that they feel necessary. These days, via the Internet, vast resources are available—if they would only look for them, and start to use them.

There are many, many, things that parents can do—if they would stop complaining, and start solving problems themselves.

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Posted by albert einstein
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Well, I did receive good education in Germany, which at that time had one on the most advanced schools in the world. But the teachers bugged me a lot because the standards were not flexible enough for a bright student like me. When I grew up and moved to North America I found that the system of education here was much better than I experienced in Germany as there was much more room for freedom of individual growth. I enjoyed living and teaching in America and felt jealous of those lucky American students who are so free to pursue their dreams. Not anymore. With new Common Core standards the students and teachers will be tied up like in chains. Just for the sake of easy comparison of tests point to point? Talent cannot and should not be compared unless we want to follow Hitler's footsteps. The sign over the Buchenwald gate reads:"Jedem Das Seine" which means "To Everyone his OWN" or "Everyone gets what he deserves".

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