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The Common Core is right for a STEM career

Common Core opponents use any hook they can for their critiques.  Recently, Dr. James Milgram, one of two former academics traveling the country to make the case against the Common Core, sent this testimony to the House Education Committee recently.

Here’s my response in the Concord Monitor.

Have you heard that the Common Core math standards don’t prepare our children for STEM careers?  Don’t believe it.

Preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math has been one of Governor Hassan’s highest education priorities. She emphasized the importance of the Common Core in her State of the State address and went on to announce her new STEM task force.

New Hampshire businesses thinks the new math standards get it right too.  The Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire (the BIA), the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education, New Hampshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council and many CEO’s have all endorsed the Common Core.

Thousands of educators and experts participated in developing the Common Core State Standards for math. Hundreds worked on and gave feedback to the various committees involved. Every major mathematical society in America is on record endorsing the standards.  The New Hampshire Teachers of Mathematics thinks so as well.

Actually, most every math teacher you talk to thinks provides the preparation our students need – except James Milgram, a retired math prof who travels the country opposing the Common Core.

Dr. Milgram recently submitted testimony to the House Education Committee in support of the several anti-Common Core bills.  He tells the committee some ancient history about the math standards in California and stories about who said what to whom as the Common Core standards were being developed.  But he does not actually critique the standards.

In fact, Dr. Milgram concludes by saying,  ”In spite of the issues raised above, it is true, first that Core Standards are considerably better than the old New Hampshire Math Standards, and second, that much of the material in them is very well done. In fact Core Standards are better than the standards of 90% of the states…”

Then he finishes that sentence by saying that all those political problems make the Common Core standards “entirely unsuitable for state adoption.”

His recommendation is that New Hampshire put together a few good math teachers from “top New Hampshire universities such as Dartmouth” and tweak the Common Core standards.

Actually, New Hampshire math teachers from schools around the State have already done that.  Guided by NHDOE, they commented on early drafts and saw their comments used.

And the process continues today. The annual conference of New Hampshire math teachers next month is entirely devoted to the Common Core.  Many math teachers share their teaching methods in statewide networks the New Hampshire Department of Education has set up.

Day-to-day, math and science teachers meet in their schools to figure out the best way to use the new standards in their classrooms.  And they’ll tell anyone who asks that they appreciate the Common Core standards.

As the Alton School Board was voting to reject the Common Core a few months ago, Richard Kirby, sixth grade English and mathematics teacher at Alton Central School, told the board that the Alton Teachers Association welcomes the Common Core standards, saying ”It offers new challenges to students to become problem solvers, critical thinkers and technologically literate,” he said. “It raises the bar for grade levels and individuals.” (Laconia Sun, 9/17/13)

Carol Marino, 6th Grade Math teacher at Sanborn Middle School, told me, “The Common Core is much more focused.  We can spend more time on a topic and really delve into it deeper.  And we have continuity across the grades.  It just makes so much more sense to me.”

As Dave Juvet, senior vice president of the BIA, said when a sponsor of the anti-Common Core legislation asked if he had read the critics of the Common Core, “My belief is they represent a small, small, small minority of those who worked on the development of the Common Core standards.”

via The Common Core is right for a STEM career | Concord Monitor.

The Smarter Balanced test makes good sense for New Hampshire

The NECAP served its purpose

When the federal No Child Left Behind act required annual assessments of all public school students in grades 3-8 and 11, New Hampshire joined Rhode Island and Vermont – two other small states with small education budgets – to create the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). It was a fill-in-the-bubble, multiple choice test first administered in 2005.  Since 2009, Maine has used the NECAP as well.

…but the new Smarter Balanced test is much better

Now New Hampshire is part of a much larger consortium of states – the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium – developing a modern test aligned to the new Common Core standards.  This computer adaptive test (it adjusts the student’s questions to the students abilities) is far better than the NECAP and was judged in a major study by the Michigan Department of Education to be the best in the country.  And, instead of testing our students in the fall and getting the results in April, when they are no longer relevant, the Smarter Balanced test will be given in the spring and the results will be available almost immediately.

So we are getting a far better test as the same price as the old NECAP.  New Hampshire teachers I have talked to have been very impressed with the new test and are looking forward to using it in their classrooms.


Some large Republican states are writing their own tests, but that kind of inside baseball does not matter to New Hampshire

Common Core opponents have made much of the fact that some large states have chosen to write their own Common Core tests rather than participate in Smarter Balanced or the other national testing consortium, PARCC.  When you look at the states involved, two things stand out.  Every one of them has a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature.  These folks are making a political statement, not an educational statement.  And they are all from large states that can afford the luxury of writing their own tests, the quality of which is yet to be determined.

The important thing is to use the test to improve instruction

And, of course, the new tests they are (talking about) writing are Common Core tests.  No state has dropped its commitment to the Common Core.  In fact, it looks as if the tide has turned in that debate.  Even Diane Ravitch, a critic of the Common Core, now says, “Those that like them should use them…Most objections to the standards are caused by the testing….Use them to enrich instruction, but not to standardize it.”

That’s just what New Hampshire does.  Testing is used here primarily to improve instruction and very little for accountability.  In fact, the New Hampshire agreement with the federal government is that neither the 2015 test or the 2016 test will be used for evaluating teachers – and even after that it will get minimal use for accountability.

The State has taken a lead role in developing the test and, in any case, would not have fiscal capacity to develop its own test as some large states are doing.  The inside baseball about which Republican states have switched to a different test vendor makes no real difference to New Hampshire.

Original Posted on ANHPE.org

Tea Party Legislators Push Bill To Shut Down NH Dept of Education

Are Tea Party legislators on a “search and destroy mission” aimed at the NH Department of Education? You decide.

From Bill Duncan and Advancing NH Public Education

In 2012, the O’Brien legislature considered shutting down the New Hampshire Department of Education.  Now in the minority, opponents of public education have taken a different approach.  On January 28, 2014, Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) presented her bill, HB 1397, to authorize a stacked study committee  to go after DOE.

The thesis is that that DOE has gone rogue, establishing an unauthorized new division to implement the Common Core in a stealth mode.

There can be no doubt about the intention of the bill.  The study committee would be made up of 2 House Republicans, 2 House Democrats and one Republican appointed by the president of the Senate, a guaranteed Republican majority.  The next section, about Duties, sends the committee deep into conspiracy land to ferret out law-breaking within DOE.

The hearing brought Common Core opponents out in force, as you see on this highlight reel:


That’s not a recognizable portrait to most who deal with NHDOE.  Long time disability rights advocate Bonnie Dunham testified about how responsive DOE has been to her concerns and characterizes the bill as a “search and destroy mission.”


And here is Heather Gage, Director of the Division of Educational Improvement and Chief of Staff, New Hampshire Department of Education, responding to each issue raised by supporters.


There is little prospect that this bill will get serious support, but it will serve as an early indicator of where legislators stand on the Common Core.

James Milgram’s Dishonest Critique Of The Common Core Math Standards

Most critiques of the Common Core don’t hold up to scrutiny. Dr. James Milgram’s critiques never do.  His criticism of the math standards is the basis for most of the rest of the math criticism you hear, but is fundamentally dishonest.

Milgram uses a willful misreading of the Common Core standards to say that California’s pre-Common Core standards for kindergarten math were better.  He claims that, in the Common Core standards, numbers are “nothing more than oral and reading vocabulary,” while the California standards pushed deep into the meaning of numbers.  Actually, the two standards are very similar – both good at guiding teachers to engender a deep sense of the real meaning of numbers.

And, since the California standards were actually so similar to the Common Core standards, Milgram manages to undercut claims that the Common Core math standards are not “developmentally appropriate” for kindergarteners  – a claim definitively put to rest by New Hampshire kindergarten teachers here.

The details

Common Core opponents frequently refer to James Milgram’s critique of the math standards to support their assertion that the standards are not rigorous enough – don’t prepare students for algebra in the 8th grade, etc. – even while complaining that the kindergarten math standards are too hard, “developmentally inappropriate.”


But the closer you look, the more confused this critique seems to be.  Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute referred me to this paper by Milgram and Sandra Stotsky as the foundation for this kind of critique.  Milgram, presumably, did the math sections and Stotsky the English sections.  But there are several problems with the math critique here.

First, Milgram seems to have started with the desired conclusion – “The Common Core is all wrong” – and worked backwards to create the evidence.  On page 4, he says,

California’s standards first focus on numbers as objects with special properties—they can be compared, they have magnitude, and they can be also be added and subtracted. But in Common Core’s standards, numbers are nothing more than oral and reading vocabulary in kindergarten.

Then, in the worst form of scholarship, he quotes selectively from the Common Core standards to make his point.  He says, correctly, that the first three Common Core standards are:

1. Count to 100 by ones and by tens.

2. Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1).

3. Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20 (with 0 representing a count of no objects).

Then, as you can see in the paper, he cites the California standards.  But, actually, the Common Core standards go on to say this:

4. Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality.

5. Count to answer “how many?” questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1–20, count out that many objects.

6. Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.
7. Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals.

So, actually, the Common Core standards call for almost precisely the same approach to teaching numbers in kindergarten as California did in its widely respected standards.

This example illustrates the fundamental dishonesty of Milgram’s approach to critiquing the Common Core.  It gives advocates like the Pioneer Institute something to say when they travel the country railing against federalism, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Beyond that, however, Milgram unwittingly undercuts the charge Common Core opponents make the that standards are not “developmentally appropriate.”  The only real difference between the California kindergarten math standards -widely regarded as “appropriate” and wise – and the Common Core is that the California standards had the kids counting to 30 (as New Hampshire and other states did) and now the goal is for students to count to 100, a goal that New Hampshire kindergarten teachers are finding entirely achievable.


From ANHPE post. 

Get this: Privatizers see the Common Core as a Distraction from school choice!

I always consider policy discussions about privatization – proposals to dismantle public education and replace it with charters, vouchers and home schools  – a distraction from the real project of making our public schools the best in the world.  But anti-Common Core activists have the gall to see the work needed to move our schools forward – like increasing expectations by instituting higher standards like the Common Core – as a distraction from their privatization goal!

Just think about that.

New Hampshire’s anti-Common Core activists express these very views (a point I first made here) but the American Principles Project further fleshed out this manifesto on its blog a couple of days ago.  Here’s an excerpt:

American Principles Project has been an advocate for school choice since our inception.  We have been alarmed how the Common Core State Standards  has been an intrusion for private schools and even homeschoolers.  In principle we desire greater choice in education as parents should have sovereignty over how their children learn.  The Common Core diminishes parental choice as they are confronted by “common standards” at every turn.  Robert Holland of The Heartland Institute gave a dire warning last month saying that the Common Core would cripple school choice.

Ultimately, disempowerment may be the main reason for parental angst. Unless it is stopped, Common Core will deliver a devastating blow to parental choice at all levels. The one, limited power possessed by most public-school parents is the ability to seek change at the local school board. Unfortunately, the corporate and foundation-funded sponsors of CCSS copyrighted the standards and set up no process for local amendment.

The greatest leverage for parents comes when they can use vouchers or tax-credit scholarships to transfer their children to private or parochial schools. But even in a state with as strong a voucher program as Indiana, the government requires schools accepting voucher students to administer the official test, which has opened the door wide to CCSS-style assessment. Thus will governmental creep dilute the liberating effect of school choice.

Nor will homeschooling parents be exempt if CCSS stands, because many states also require home educators to administer the official test. Even more insidious, Common Core lead writer David Coleman (formerly a testing consultant) now heads the College Board and has vowed to align the SAT with the nationalized standards. Thus any student—whether from public, private, parochial, or home school—will have to be Common Core-acclimated.


via Common Core Is a Distraction From School Choice.

So there you have it.  The privatizers see the Common Core as a threat to their goal of dismantling American public education.  Naturally.

Teachers really do understand and support the Common Core – Bill Duncan

Here’s my Concord Monitor opinion piece from yesterday.  It’s odd how Common Core opponents assert that teachers don’t really understand the evils of the new standards that raise expectations for our students, even as they use them every day in their classrooms.

The Monitor published an article on Dec. 17 about Joseph Mendola of Warner forming a political action committee to oppose the Common Core. That’s fine. It can take its place beside the PACs to oppose Obamacare and global warming. But what surprised me was that Mendola said, “teachers have just a glimpse of what they think (the Common Core is) about.”

In my work with Advancing New Hampshire Public Education, an advocacy organization, I have visited schools across the state and talked to teachers and administrators about the Common Core. I can tell you that there is strong appreciation for the new higher standards from any teacher who has actually used them in her classroom. Here are some examples:

When I visited Angela Manning’s vibrant and engaged fifth grade at Portsmouth’s New Franklin Elementary School, she said, “It’s overwhelming, of course, because it’s a big shift. It’s been interesting, though, to watch the kids step up to the level of deeper thinking that we’re asking them to do.”


Sue Hannan has been teaching for 25 years, now the sixth and seventh grades at Manchester’s Hillside Middle School. She says, “In the past . . . (we were) fearful of raising expectations. But . . . we need to set that higher standard. The Common Core does that.”

The new standards seem to be less of a departure for the teachers in our high schools. Deb Springhorn, an American studies teacher at Lebanon High School speaks for many when she says, “I think we’ve been doing Common Core for at least the 20 years. . . . To me it’s just good curriculum and good classroom instruction. . . . (In our American studies course), it’s American literature and American history combined together. We bring in philosophy. We bring in economics. We bring in art. We bring in music. . . . These are the higher-order thinking skills I think the Common Core really addresses. . . . So I’m a believer.”

Kathy Kirby, a social studies teacher at Hollis/Brookline Cooperative High School, said at a teacher training day this fall, “The objective in our district has always been to graduate successful writers and critical thinkers, and people who have developed high reading skills . . . very much in line with the Common Core.”

Diane Johnson, a combined first- and second-grade teacher in Bennington, told me, “The first- and second-graders are astonishing me with their problem-solving ability. It took awhile. It’s harder. They have to explain what they’re doing. But to have 6- or 7-year-olds talk about a multi-step problem and all the different ways that they got there – and then to see that kid in the back go, ‘Ohhhh, yeah, now I get it.’ It’s very satisfying.”

Debbie Villiard, a fourth-grade teacher passionately dedicated to the kids at Manchester’s Northwest Elementary School, has had great success with the new standards in her classroom:

“Common Core standards don’t limit what I do in the classroom – they open doors. . . . We go deeper and spend more time on skills. We don’t just teach something and move on. . . . I try to make sure they really, really own those skills.”

If you’re skeptical about the Common Core, ask your child’s teacher about it. In most New Hampshire schools, you’ll find her knowledgeable about the new higher standards and committed raising expectations for what our kids will know when they leave her classroom.

PACs and politics aside, that’s got to be a good thing.

(Bill Duncan of New Castle is the founder of the advocacy group Advancing New Hampshire Public Education.)

via My Turn: Teachers really do understand (and like) the Common Core | Concord Monitor.

Granite State Progress Asks ‘Who Is Really Funding The Josiah Bartlett Center and The NH Watchdog?’

New Report Reveals the Koch-Fueled, ALEC-Allied Corporate Agenda Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Don’t Want Public to Know About

New Hampshire report part of multi-state expose on ALEC’s use of front groups to push national corporate agenda at the expense of middle class families 

Report highlights examples of Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog misleading policymakers, press, and public about role as paid lobbyists for corporate interests  

CONCORD, NH – This morning Granite State Progress and the Center for Media and Democracy formerly released the new report “Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers” detailing how state-based Josiah Bartlett Center and the New Hampshire Watchdog are not independent and unbiased as they claim, and instead work hand in hand with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other corporate-funded special interest groups to advocate for public policies designed to benefit their corporate funders.

“Our research shows how the Josiah Bartlett Center and the New Hampshire Watchdog work hand in hand with ALEC to act as paid lobbyists for controversial, corporate-driven policies, without disclosing those ties to the public and instead actually working to deflect increased public scrutiny of the corporate corruption of our legislative process,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Josiah Bartlett Center and the NH Watchdog are just a different face for the same Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda that is attacking New Hampshire middle class families and hurting our communities.”

The new report details how the Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog falsely claim to be independent, local operators when in fact they are part of the State Policy Network, a national Koch-funded, ALEC-allied network of organizations. The Josiah Bartlett Center, NH Watchdog, and other State Policy Network member groups advocate for a national agenda driven by out-of-state corporate actors. Be it the economy, environment, education, workers’ rights or access to health care, State Policy Network member groups promote policies that are not only designed to fatten the bottom line of their corporate funders, but are consistently harmful to New Hampshire.

“Granite Staters need to know how these groups misrepresent themselves and their agenda, and how much influence they maintain over lawmakers,” said Rice Hawkins. “We will continue to shine a bright light on ALEC, front groups like the Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog, and the lawmakers who are doing their dirty work rather than acting in the best interests of our state.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • The Josiah Bartlett Center is a member of the State Policy Network and the NH Watchdog – embedded at the Josiah Bartlett Center – is run by the far-right Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Both networks have close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch brothers, and the Heritage Foundation among others.
  • The legislative agenda of the Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog align closely with other Koch-funded groups such as Americans for Prosperity and ALEC, and the organizations play a specific role in the overall strategy for advancing these objectives.
  • Staff of both organizations lobby on legislation at the state level – spending time producing reports, creating statistics, talking points, “expert” testimony, videos, and a raft of other materials – yet refuse to file as lobbyists or disclose their ties. Former NH Watchdog staffer Grant Bosse even testified on legislation before a committee as a ‘reporter’ speaking on his own behalf without disclosing that he had been paid with corporate donations to issue reports attacking the policy in question.  (pages 20-21 of report)
  • Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog have received direct funding from the Koch family fortune despite their claims otherwise. The staff members for both the Josiah Bartlett Center and the NH Watchdog wrote opinion columns in the past two years in which they denied receiving Koch funding and attempted to deflect criticism of other corporate-funded entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Bad Bartlett report provides irrefutable evidence that the Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog intentionally mislead policymakers, press, and the public about the funding they receive to advocate for corporate-written legislation. (pages 8, 13-14, 32-35)

Lisa Graves, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy (CMD): “While State Policy Network members go on television and represent themselves as nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy, in actuality SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde groups in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family.”

“The bottom line is these organizations of the rich, by the rich and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working class Americans and it’s just a blatant lie.  What we’re doing is trying to bring some transparency to the damaging work they’re doing on a daily basis.  From policies that promote polluting the air and water to the destruction of our public education system and a tax system that benefits their rich donors, what these organizations are doing is shameful and it’s time that someone brought this to light.”

Bill Duncan, Founder, NH Advancing Public Education: “New Hampshire residents have a right to know who is writing their laws and who is advocating for them. The Josiah Bartlett Center has a nice-sounding, local name, but the fact that they go to such great lengths to hide their connections to groups like ALEC or funders like the Koch brothers while advocating for the very policy agenda supplied by those groups and funders should raise the eyebrows of anyone.”

Today’s report was released as a follow-up to previous reports by Granite State Progress and the Center for Media and Democracy exposing how corporate-funded ALEC’s agenda is not based upon ideology, but rather upon financial rewards for its corporate funders. ALEC “model bills” that have been introduced in New Hampshire by ALEC representatives benefit corporations at the expense of everyday Granite Staters.

The report can be found online at www.GraniteStateProgress.org.


Are the Common Core math standards “developmentally appropriate” for Kindergarteners?

Are the Common Core math standards “developmentally appropriate” for Kindergarteners? It depends, as always, on who’s teaching.

Opponents say that the Common Core standards, especially the math standards, are not developmentally appropriate for Kindergarteners.

But many New Hampshire Kindergarten and early grade teachers are using the math standards successfully.  When I ask, they say that Kindergarteners can definitely achieve the goals set out in the standards, under the right conditions.  One condition is that the child is prepared – meaning that she’s attended high quality pre-K or her parents have provided a rich environment full of words and numbers.

The second requirement is that she must have access to full day kindergarten.  We know that frequently is not the case, particularly for low income students.  But it appears that, at least partly, it’s about preparation, not something inherent in a five year-old’s stage of development.  So a state’s early childhood development policies are the issue, not really the Common Core or any other standard.

“But,” many say, “5 year olds need to play and discover together.  They need social and emotional development, not academic instruction.”  This is not really a Common Core issue either.  It is a long-running debate that predates the Common Core and will probably go on for a long time.  Some schools, including many Montessori and Waldorf schools, are better at combining play and learning than others.  And some teachers are.  So there’s real pedagogy involved.  But it doesn’t appear to be an issue of what a 5 year-old is developmentally prepared to do.


Here’s a typical post from a Common Core opponent – blogger Anthony Cody, in this case – saying that the goals the standards set for Kindergarteners are inappropriate”

Error #2: The Common Core Standards violate what we know about how children develop and grow.

One of the problems with the blinkered development process described above is that no experts on early childhood were included in the drafting or internal review of the Common Core.

In response to the Common Core, more than 500 experts signed the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative. This statement now seems prophetic in light of what is happening in classrooms. The key concerns they raised were:

1.            Such standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math.
2.            They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing
3.            Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning.
4.            There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success.

Many states are now developing standards and tests for children in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade, to “prepare” them for the Common Core. Early childhood education experts agree that this is developmentally inappropriate. Young children do not need to be subjected to standardized tests. Just recently, the parents of a k-2 school refused to allow their children to be tested. They were right to do so.

Mr. Cody makes a common mistake here, confusing the Common Core with the way certain states implement it.  In New York, a state with among the worst education policies in the country, all the bad things he enumerates do happen – but they would happen with or without the Common Core.

In fact, if you are willing to risk depression, watch the video posted here showing a NY teacher drilling disengaged Kindergartners in counting.  And this is presented as a model by engageNY.org, the official  New York State Education Department website set up to support the state’s education reform agenda.

Notice that the blogger makes the same mistake Mr. Cody does – he attributes this offensive teaching strategy to the Common Core when it’s actually the result of New York’s dishearteningly misguided public education policy.

People concerned about the importance of play and discovery for young children refer to studies like these to make the case that the Common Core standards are inappropriate, but clearly what’s appropriate is a matter of how it’s taught.

I asked a young NY mom the other day whether her four year-old’s private school – known for its commitment to play, discovery and development of “the whole child” – would consider this sample Kindergarten math standard developmentally appropriate:

“Count to 100 by ones and by tens.”

She didn’t know for sure but emailed me a couple of days later, saying,

“Jason[a pseudonym] and his classmates decided yesterday to measure the length of their classroom. They are using small colored cubes like the ones we have at home, and they laid out several hundred of them in a line across the floor.  Their job today is counting them.

So take a guess what sign showed up on the wall this morning to facilitate the counting – a chart with numbers from 1 to 50 and then numbers by 10s to 100 after that…

So there you have it – teaching to the Common Core math standard by mind-numbing drill or by mind-expanding discovery.  And within a few feet of each other!

Mr. Cody and Mr. Cerrone are not alone in making this obvious error.  Most Common Core opponents do it: show bad teaching or kids under stress from NY or somewhere else and attribute it to the new standards.

Why would they do this?  Because they are using the issue as a political tool to scare parents about the Common Core rather than actually engaging in the early childhood development debate about what’s best for kids.

A commentator concerned about the issue instead of using it to make a political point would approach the question entirely differently.  Here is Daniel Willingham talking about whether a particular approach to teaching is appropriate for first graders.

…you can’t always wait until children are “ready.” Think about mathematics. Children are born understanding numerosity, but they understand it on a logarithmic scale–the difference between five and ten is larger than the difference between 70 and 75. To understand elementary mathematics they must learn to think of numbers of a linear scale. In this case, teachers have toundo Nature. And if you wait until the child is “developmentally ready” to understand numbers this way, you’ll never teach them mathematics. It will never happen.

In sum, I don’t think developmental psychology is a good guide to what children should learn; it provides some help in thinking about how children learn. The best guide to “what” is what children know now, and where you want their learning to head.

Dr. Willingham is not in some political fox hole lobbing out whatever ammunition he has to defeat the new standards that must be bad because Bill Gates supports them.  He’s just trying to figure out the best way to help kids learn.  Mr. Cody and Mr. Cerrone should come out of their fox holes and learn from Dr. Willingham.

Reposted from ANHPE Blog

The Battle Over Common Core Rages On Advancing NH Public Education’s Blog

If you are a regular follower of the NH Labor New, let me say thank you (if not subscribe on the right side of this page), you also know that we re-post works from Bill Duncan (Advancing NH Public Education).  As content editor I choose which articles to share with my audience.  I do not want to take away from the great work that Bill is doing so I artfully pick and choose posts for the NH Labor News.

One of the biggest education battles in New Hampshire right now is the battle over the Common Core standards.  Some people oppose it, so cannot wait to start using it, and some already see the benefits.

This week Bill Duncan blogged about the NH Union Leader’s coverage of Common Core.  Because each post is too long to combine into one I am going to give you a excerpt and the link so you can read them all.  I suggest you read them all, in order to understand the progression of the articles.

1)Day one of the Union Leader’s series on the Common Core is balanced

“There’s one detail I would expand on.  You could get the impression that Manchester and Alton made similar decisions about the Common Core but they were really quite different.  The Alton school board voted 3-2 to express its lack of support for the Common Core in its one school.  The Manchester school board voted 13-1 in favor of implementing its own standards based on the Common Core.  As a practical matter, neither district will have the capacity to develop an alternative to the Common Core or adopt an alternative to the Smarter Balanced assessment aligned to the Common Core and adopted by the State.”

2) Day 2 of the Union Leader series on the Common Core: how do you know 12 + 7 = 19?

“Common Core opponents frequently make the this “method doesn’t matter” point.  But what if Mr. DiPietro’s daughter got to 19 by counting on her fingers and toes?  Learning math is a accumulation of skills.  Counting on her fingers would not serve Ms. DiPietro well in Algebra I.  (On the other hand, the student pointing to his brain is on the right track if he means, “I have become fluent in addition.  I just see 19 when I see 12+7.”)

The Common Core calls for the kind of good instruction Ms. DiPietro’s teacher is providing: trying to ensure that students are fluent enough in the basics of math to solve real world problems.  Mr. DiPietro has crystalized the argument for the Common Core.”

3) (MUST READ) Union Leader oped: don’t implement the Common Core – let the public schools sink!

“There was an interesting – more telling than interesting – anti-Common Core opinion piece in today’s Union Leader.”

4) ‘Brains are on fire’ in Amherst – the Union Leader makes the case for the Common Core

“Union Leader Reporter David Solomon captures here, on the last day of theUnion Leader series on the Common Core, what you see in classrooms all over New Hampshire. “

5) Vibrant classrooms demonstrate that the Common Core is alive and well in Manchester

“Even in Manchester, recently famous for voting to create its own standards, the Common Core is deeply rooted.  On the last day of the Union Leader series on the Common Core, Reporter David Solomon reports on a Gossler Park first grade classroom alive with Common Core based learning:”

As I stated earlier, Bill Duncan does amazing work with Advancing NH Public Education. If you are an education policy wonk then you should follow his blog.  He covers much more that I ever could.

You can see all ANHPE’s posts on Common Core by clicking here.

Common Core opponents come clean – it’s all about the rights of private and home schoolers. Huh?

From Bill Duncan (Advancing NH Public Education)

Eagle Tribune reporter John Toole wrote a piece yesterday with a telling quote from Cornerstone:

Cornerstone, announcing a forum last month with AFP at St. Anselm College, said many parents, teachers and legislators are questioning and opposing Common Core.

“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students? What about all the data collection on students and their families? What will this cost taxpayers?” Cornerstone asked.

There it is.  The Common Core debate in New Hampshire is being driven by homeschoolers and privatization advocates like Cornerstone out of concern for how improved public education standards might eventually affect voucher and home schools.  Just stop and think about that for a minute.  These folks are part of a national effort that would shut down public education and replace it with private and home schools but still want to set policy for New Hampshire public education.  In case it might eventually affect them.

Here is Cornerstone advocating for vouchers last year, saying that New Hampshire standards are so bad that students need private tutors to be successful in school.  Now the same folks oppose a improving New Hampshire academic standards because of “all the data collection on students and their families?”  Where does this concern come from?  There is no serious risk to student data privacy in New Hampshire.  Nor does cost appear to be a serious issue.  No.  Cornerstone is clear about its real concern, asserting that “teachers” are concerned about the question:

“How will Common Core impact home-school and private school students?”

Personally, I doubt it.  But Cornerstone’s frequent advocacy partner, Jamie Gass, from the free market Pioneer Institute says he opposes the Common Core for the same reason: it might affect charter and voucher schools.

Adoption of the Common Core became a political issue in Manchester driven largely by a local radio talk show host who serves on the board of and sends his kids to the the libertarian Liberty Harbor Academy, an advocate for privatization of New Hampshire public education.  Here is Manchester master teacher Selma Nacach- Hoff pleading with the school board to move beyond that political debate and exercise its responsibility for curriculum leadership.  And the school board did do the right thing last week.

Homeschoolers and private and religious schools funded with vouchers operate with no accountability in New Hampshire.  So advocates seem to want a public debate about the Common Core because, at some time in the future, they might feel cramped by the effort to improve New Hampshire public education.

As a result, we will have at least 5 bills in the upcoming legislative session and a number of school boards around the state are earnestly debating the merits of the Common Core, a clear step forward for New Hampshire public education, because homeschoolers and voucher advocates are concerned that their rights might eventually be infringed.

We pride ourselves on our open public debate here in New Hampshire.  I hope that will never change.  Common Core opponents should get a fair public hearing.  But legislators and school board members should not allow themselves to be sidetracked by the Common Core red herrings offered by advocates for privatization of public education.

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