If you haven’t been to a State Board of Education meeting, I would highly recommend it. I attended a meeting where the Common Core standards and related assessments were on the agenda. Much of the focus was on how to create standards that meet the new federal requirement of “college-and-career-ready standards” and what assessments that measure these standards would look like. What I didn’t hear, was how the new standards would comply with our existing state law regarding the adoption of standards. Here is what Indiana code states regarding standards:
Adoption of academic standards
Sec. 1. The state board shall adopt clear, concise, and jargon free state academic standards that are comparable to national and international academic standards. These academic standards must be adopted for each grade level from kindergarten through grade 12 for the following subjects:
(1) English/language arts.
(3) Social studies.
Part of the federal ESEA waiver Indiana received requires the state to adopt “college-and-career-ready-standards” (CCRS). It could be met by adopting the Common Core, or by having a state-network of higher-ed institutions certify the adopted standards prepared students for entry-level college course work. In the end, the federal government has final say over whether or not the standards are acceptable by either denying or accepting the waiver request.
Virginia went through this process to have their state standards certified as CCRS. While their former standards were considered CCRS by Achieve, Fordham and other expert groups, this was not enough to satisfy the US Department of Education. The Virginia Department of Education had to guarantee full alignment of the state standards to the Common Core. In addition to this, they had to have complete alignment of their curriculum frameworks and performance indicators which comprise what will be assessed. Appendix 4 and 5 of the Virginia ESEA waiver application outline the steps Virginia took to get approval of their “state” standards. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/approved-requests/va.pdf
The Common Core standards are the federal benchmark for sets of alternative standards to be considered CCR. The sticking point is whether their definition meets our state requirements for the adoption of standards. Is the Common Core clear, concise and free of jargon? Is it internationally comparable? Let’s take a look at the Common Core Math Standards (CCMS) for addition and subtraction in first grade.
CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.C.4 Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number, and adding a two-digit number and a multiple of 10, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used. Understand that in adding two-digit numbers, one adds tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose a ten.
CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.C.5 Given a two-digit number, mentally find 10 more or 10 less than the number, without having to count; explain the reasoning used.
CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.C.6 Subtract multiples of 10 in the range 10-90 from multiples of 10 in the range 10-90 (positive or zero differences), using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used.
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.A.1 Use addition and subtraction within 20 to solve word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.1
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.A.2 Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.B.3 Apply properties of operations as strategies to add and subtract.2Examples: If 8 + 3 = 11 is known, then 3 + 8 = 11 is also known. (Commutative property of addition.) To add 2 + 6 + 4, the second two numbers can be added to make a ten, so 2 + 6 + 4 = 2 + 10 = 12. (Associative property of addition.)
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.B.4 Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem. For example, subtract 10 – 8 by finding the number that makes 10 when added to 8.
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.5 Relate counting to addition and subtraction (e.g., by counting on 2 to add 2)
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.6 Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13)
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.D.7 Understand the meaning of the equal sign, and determine if equations involving addition and subtraction are true or false. For example, which of the following equations are true and which are false? 6 = 6, 7 = 8 – 1, 5 + 2 = 2 + 5, 4 + 1 = 5 + 2.
CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.D.8 Determine the unknown whole number in an addition or subtraction equation relating three whole numbers. For example, determine the unknown number that makes the equation true in each of the equations 8 + ? = 11, 5 = _ – 3, 6 + 6 = _.
These standards are neither clear nor concise and completely full of jargon. More importantly, it isn’t in the least bit similar to the standards used in high-performing countries. Take a look at the first grade standards for addition and subtraction from high-performing countries and the top performing state, Massachusetts. You will find them clear, concise and jargon free. You will also notice that they require the formal algorithm for addition and subtraction (Korea waits until second grade) which is absent in the plethora of first grade standards in CCMS. In fact, the CCMS doesn’t require the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction until fourth grade!
Addition and Subtraction, First Grade, Singapore
- concepts of addition and subtraction
- use of the addition symbol (+) or subtraction symbol (-) to write a mathematical statement for a given situation
- comparing two numbers within 20 to tell how much one number is greater (or smaller) than the other
- recognize the relationship between addition and subtraction
- addition bonds up to 9+9 and commit them to memory
- solve one-step word problems involving addition and subtraction within 20
- addition of more than two 1-digit numbers; addition and subtraction within 100 involving a 2-digit number and ones, a 2-digit number and tens, two 2-digit numbers
- addition and subtraction using formal algorithms.
Addition and Subtraction, First Grade, Korea
Numbers up to 100. Addition and subtraction of simple numbers. Addition and subtraction of two‐digit numbers.
Addition and Subtraction, First-Second Grade Band, Massachusetts
- Demonstrate an understanding of various meanings of addition and subtraction, e.g., addition as combination (plus, combined with, more); subtraction as comparison (how much less, how much more), equalizing (how many more are needed to make these equal), and separation (how much remaining).
- Understand and use the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., 8 + 6 = 14 is equivalent to 14 – 6 = 8 and is also equivalent to 14 – 8 = 6) to solve problems and check solutions.
- Know addition facts (addends to ten) and related subtraction facts, and use them to solve problems.
- Demonstrate the ability to add and subtract three-digit numbers accurately and efficiently.
- Demonstrate in the classroom an understanding of and the ability to use the conventional algorithms for addition (two 3-digit numbers and three 2-digit numbers) and subtraction (two 3-digit numbers).
- Estimate, calculate, and solve problems involving addition and subtraction of two-digit numbers. Describe differences between estimates and actual calculations.
High-performing countries do NOT include instructional strategies or the requirement for students to EXPLAIN their reasoning like the CCMS. This is an important difference. When these requirements for students are included in the content standards, it means they will be assessed on high-stakes tests. In high-performing countries, these skills or instructional methods are left up to the teacher to determine if their use is necessary and students’ understanding is evaluated in the classroom by the teacher. They recognize that there is no way to judge a student’s understanding on an assessment, especially in early grades. They are all different and will have different ways of communicating their understanding at this age. I wonder how much classroom time will be spent drilling the students on memorizing acceptable written answers to demonstrate their understanding for Common Core aligned tests? High-performing countries are focused on the fundamentals in the early grades; adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing using the most efficient method. It really isn’t that complex. For more information on the standards of high-performing countries see http://wheresthemath.com/math-standards/sets-of-standards/
Common Core supporters claimed states must adopt the Common Core because American students must be capable of competing in the global 21st century. High-performing countries were out-competing us on international tests and we needed to emulate their standards or face economic ruin. Either this threat has magically disappeared or international competitiveness was never the intended goal. If Indiana wants her students to compete with students from high-performing countries, adopting federally approved, college-and-career-ready standards doesn’t put students on track. In fact, it ties one hand behind their backs.
The State Board of Education must choose whether they will consider the federal CCRS requirements or Indiana requirements as they decide the future of Indiana standards. Will we follow our own state law and adopt clear, concise, jargon-free standards comparable to high-performing countries or acquiesce to the federal requirement? The federal government contributes 8% of Indiana’s revenues for education and Hoosiers kick in the other 92%. The State Board of Education needs to adopt standards that obey the laws written by the elected representatives of Hoosiers. After all, we are the people who are both paying for and receiving the education provided by our state.