Is Questioning the Common Core State Standards Divisive

It appears the big questions concerning the CCSSM, Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, are still being answered.  The authors of the four articles at the bottom of the page ask good questions and make great comments regarding previous research on the CCSSM and their current work.  The analyses of the selected authors intend to not divide the educational audience but rather inform them to differences and similarities present in the CCSSM to other documents.  Tienkin in “CCSS: I Wonder” makes a very valid points concerning not how we implement the CCSS but why.  His article places a large emphasis on national testing being a large reason for national alignment.  The article by Porter, Mcmaken, Hwang, and Yang focus on alignment of the CCSS to state standards and the assessment of this alignment in regards to good mathematical practices.  Cobb and Jackson go into short detail on a method by Porter to assess the alignment of the CCSSM to current state mathematics standards.  These authors also discuss the focus, coherence, and improvement of quality of the CCSSM.  The last article by the company Achieve Incorporated focuses explicitly on the alignment of the CCSSM to the NMAP, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, recommendations found in Foundations for Success.  These four articles intend to not persuade educators to just accept the CCSSM, but to dive into its alignment and implementation.  Their focus is to make good researchers, who understand the reason why and ask great questions to ensure coherence in content adoption.

My favorite read of the four articles was by Tienkin (2010), because of his emphasis on statistical sampling of national populations.  He began his discussion with making the reader think of why we always accept change in education without first asking the question of why.  Listening to veteran teachers, they always mention how different initiatives and/or methodologies in education come and go like the wind.   Many of these teachers have become accustomed to not asking why, but just how. 

Tienkin seems to believe that we are one of the best, if not the best, nation in the world in regards to education (16 & 17).  He bases his claims on sampling of aggregated populations in other nations that are known to have significant influences to assessment results.  He shows if we sample our populations in a similar fashion, the United States would rank within the top five in achievement mathematically and scientifically.  It is common statistical knowledge that to perform true estimations of a finite population, the whole population should be sampled with equal weighting.    If this is not the case, then your statistical results should state what population was sampled when results are interpreted.  Tienken uses examples of other countries that have aligned their curriculums nationally with regret such as Japan (16).  His other claims relate to other nations teaching to the national test and even references test preparation materials in other countries related to national testing (16).  Tienkin makes strong points to consider for people who only want to only align state curriculums to the CCSS to improve national testing results.  His strong focus on not adopting the CCSSM based on national testing results missed many valid points of why states should adopt common standards.

I found the article by Porter et al. (2011) interesting in concern to SEC, Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (187).  This is a method that our current school has adopted the last two years to ensure proper education of students by holding teachers accountable for what is being taught.  The authors made very valid points on the SEC’s ability to create efficiency in proper implementation such as teachers’ willingness to provide detailed and accurate information (182).  As we know from TEAM-math presentations and activities, it is much more than content coverage that fosters student learning.  Student learning is achieved by activities that foster student discovery which require students to use mathematical ideas to understand their content in much more depth.

The article by Cobb and Jackson (2011) informs the reader of research completed by Porter and his students.  This research intended to quantify the alignment of state standards to the CCSSM.  I must admit that this alignment method did not seem very clear from the reading as the author also seemed confused of its degree of alignment (183).  The authors do mention that they felt from the study that there was an overall increase in the cognitive process of the standards in most states (184).  This was stated in the study the reviewed (Porter, et.al., p.106, 2011)An interesting point from the article was alignment of the curriculum into key domains and central mathematical ideas for specific grades.  This focus can help teachers recognize key areas and focus to ensure proper development of students to succeed at higher educational levels.  The study by Porter had many graphs of state curriculums and CCSS curriculums and their emphasis on certain areas (110-112).  As suggested by Cobb and Jackson, the issue of content being a mile wide an inch deep will hopefully be addressed with adoption of the CCSS (183). 

Other focuses by Cobb and Jackson (2011) really make me question validity after my earlier reading of Tienken in regards to coherency.  Coherency is extremely important to ensure proper implementation of the CCSSM, but the authors compare the CCSSM to higher performing nations based on testing results as predictors of proper education (184).  As Tienken forgets to illustrate the importance of creating higher expectations and assessments, these authors do not.  As seen in the articles, the CCSSM increases standards.  This is especially true here in Alabama from teachers’ responses at recent workshops across the state when shown the new CCSSM standards.  The more teachers expect from their students, the more they will receive.

The last article by the Achieve Incorporated foundation intended to address the alignment of the CCSSM to the NMAP.  The company brings to light the relationship of rigor, coherence, and focus in the CCSSM standards and NMAP recommendations for success of mathematical students.  The rigor of the CCSSM meets guidelines presented by the NMAP with very small differences in the timeline of earlier grades to meet requirements of mastery (2).  The coherence and focus of NMAP and CCSSM are slightly different as the CCSSM is more detailed in what students are expected to know at specific grades (3).  The NMAP focuses more on the outlining of content into natural and logical progressions to ensure algebraic success at later grades.  This seemingly large difference is actually favorable for teachers to understand how content develops throughout grade progression by observing domain transitions.  While the company states the relationship of the two content recommendations are very similar, the CCSSM provides “more precise and clear progressions, more complete descriptions of content across the discipline, and identifies content students should learn at each grade” to ensure student and parent success. 

                The real question for Alabama mathematics educators is, “Is the CCSSM best for students?”  The four articles reviewing the CCSSM dive into this question from different angles.  The first angle is a buy in of educators to the CCSSM.  Knowing why we need change in curriculum ensures teachers will implement these new standards correctly.  The CCSSM does more than give content objectives for a course; it promotes development of mathematical ideas at higher cognitive domains.  Many educators are hoping that national alignment will increase availability of resources and decrease pricing of teaching materials.  The next angle from the articles focuses on the how, or the relationship of the CCSSM to current standards.  The CCSSM is an increase in most all state standards quality and rigor that will hopefully promote larger student results.  A large angle included in many of the articles focused on the coherence of the CCSSM document.  Clear and logical progressions of content projections will hopefully produce quality results from students understanding which will hopefully bleed over to assessments.  To ensure students are able to utilize, appreciate, and communicate mathematics in order to develop future success is the goal of every mathematics educator.  The CCSSM is a facet for this objective that is research based to promote student understanding of mathematics.  This CCSSM is what’s best for students.

Achieve, I.c. (2010).  Comparing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics to the Recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel.  Achieving the Common Core.  Achieve, Inc, Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Cobb, P., & Jackson, K. (2011).  Assessing the Quality of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.  Educational Researcher, 40(4), 183-185.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Porter, A., McMaken, J., Hwang, J., & Yang, R. (2011).  Assessing the Common Core Standards:  Opportunities for Improving Measures of Instruction.  Educational Researcher, 40(4), 186-188.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Porter, A., McMaken, J., Hwang, J., & Yang, R. (2011).  Common Core Standards:  The New US intended Curriculum.  Educational Researcher, 40, 103-116.  Retrieved from http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8089080/EDUCATIONAL%20RESEARCHER-2011-Porter-103-16.pdf.

Tienken, C.H. (2010).  Common Core State Standards:  I Wonder?  Kappa Delta Pi Record, 47(1), 14-17.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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One response to “Is Questioning the Common Core State Standards Divisive

  1. I have a question: If a school is made to combine grade levels due to funding; which CCS are most alike; Kindergarten and 1st grade or 2nd grade and 1st grade. In your opinion which of the three grade levels would be best to combine and why?

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