This is a nice, 11-minute overview of the problems with Common Core State Standards.
Join Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters on the Leland Conway Show 84WHAS at 10 a.m. Monday. Listen live online here.
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Kentucky’s poverty rate of 19.4 percent in 2012 was much higher than the national rate, which is less than 16 percent; median income is under $42,000 a year – more than $9,000 below the national median.
Other key indicators of the commonwealth’s continual swim upstream in the River of Poverty include a jobless rate of 8.4 percent in August – more than a full point above the national rate – and the fact that only two other states hand out food stamps to a greater percentage of residents.
Some say more government programs and mandates will solve the poverty problem.
Is Kentucky’s “Unbridled Learning” school accountability program hiding serious problems?
I am starting to look at the new spreadsheets released last Friday from Kentucky’s second year of the Unbridled Learning public school accountability system. Already, I am disturbed by what I am finding even though I’ve only looked at the high school math performance.
Very simply, Unbridled Learning’s very complex numerical calculations are obscuring some very fundamental problems, especially with Kentucky’s chronic failure to fix white minus African-American achievement gaps. Unbridled Learning’s excessive focus on abstract numerical calculations, which average far too much material together before making performance judgments, hides important, fundamental information about unacceptable proficiency rates and achievement gaps for minorities.
The table below was developed from two spreadsheets (“Accountability Profile” and “KPREP End-of-Course”) found in the “Data Sets” section of the Kentucky Department of Education’s School Report Card web page.
The table shows the 2012-13 Unbridled Learning school classification and reward/recognition categories for the listed schools along with black and white Algebra II proficiency rates (the combined percentage of students who scored either Proficient or Distinguished on the K-PREP Algebra II End-of-Course exams in each school).
The table is sorted by the white minus black math achievement gap for each school, shown in the far right column.
Problems with Unbridled Learning leap out from this table.
Out of the 10 schools, only two, Henry Clay High School – a “Focus” school, and Franklin-Simpson High School – a “Priority” school, are identified as having any problems under Unbridled Learning. However, all 10 of these schools have the very highest white minus black proficiency rate gaps of any regular high schools in Kentucky.
Even more bothersome, three of the listed schools have absolutely dismal black math proficiency rates below 10 percent (after more than two decades of KERA)!
Despite its dismal performance for children of color, Paducah Tilghman High got lauded in Unbridled Learning as a “Proficient” school that also is “Progressing.” Well, that’s certainly not for its black students.
Likewise, Danville High School left all of its black students completely behind in math, but it was rated “Proficient,” supposedly telling us Danville performed better than the performance produced by 70 percent of Kentucky’s high schools last year.
The other single-digit black proficiency rate school, Franklin County’s Western Hills High School, also got praised in Unbridled Learning as a “Proficient” school. Kentuckians are being told this school performs way above average. Clearly, such a process fogs the school’s real performance for its children of color.
Although the schools listed in the table had the biggest white minus black achievement gaps in the state in 2012-2013, every one of these schools picked up a label saying it at least ranked in the top 30 percent of all schools in Kentucky. The seven schools rated “Distinguished” supposedly perform in the top 10 percent of all schools.
Obviously, in the key subject of mathematics, it clearly isn’t so for blacks. If Murray High School has teachers on staff who can produce a 74.2 percent proficiency rate for its white students, why can’t it do something nearly as good for its blacks? It isn’t impossible. If you look at all the data (not shown here), Madisonville North Hopkins High School posted a black Algebra II proficiency rate above 50 percent.
And, 14 of the 77 high schools that got reported Algebra II results for blacks posted better scores than Murray did. That’s 18 percent of the schools with better scores for blacks. If we were doing Unbridled Learning scores based on those results, Murray wouldn’t make it into the “Distinguished” top 10 percent category at all.
I’ll be looking at similar results for elementary and middle school math soon. I don’t expect to find anything different, however. Unbridled Learning made a very fundamental mistake, the same mistake made with our former CATS and KIRIS assessments, averaging too much material together before making a performance judgment. That is very different from No Child Left Behind, which required separate evaluation of the performance of each minority student group. No Child had flaws, to be certain, but if you really don’t want to leave students behind, in this area the federal program got it right, and Unbridled Learning is coming up lame.
Pioneer Institute: “College- And Career-Ready” National Math Standards Prepare Students For Only Non-Selective Colleges
High school graduates won’t be prepared to pursue four-year degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math
(From Pioneer’s Press Release)
BOSTON – National mathematics standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia that supporters say are designed to make high school graduates “college- and career-ready” and improve the critical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline do not prepare students to study STEM or even be admitted to a selective four-year college, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.
“With the exception of a few standards in trigonometry, the math standards end after Algebra II,” said James Milgram, professor of mathematics emeritus at Stanford University. “They include no precalculus or calculus.” Professor Milgram co-authored “Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare High School Students for STEM” with Sandra Stotsky, professor of education emerita at the University of Arkansas.
At a 2010 meeting of Massachusetts’ Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Professor Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the math standards, said the standards, known as Common Core, prepare students “for the colleges most kids go to, but not for the college most parents aspire to,” and added that the standards are “not for selective colleges.”
U.S. government data show that only one out of every 50 prospective STEM majors who begin their undergraduate math coursework at the precalculus level or lower will earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area. Moreover, students whose last high school math course was Algebra II or lower have less than a 40 percent chance of earning any kind of four-year college degree.
In 2010, William McCallum, another lead writer of Common Core’s math standards, said “The overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [to] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s competitive grant program, Race to the Top, requires states to place students admitted by their public colleges and universities into credit-bearing (non-remedial) mathematics (and English) courses if they have passed a Common Core-based “college readiness” test. The authors argue that selective public colleges and universities will likely have to lower the level of their introductory math courses to avoid unacceptably high failure rates.
“It’s astonishing that 46 boards and departments of education adopted Common Core’s ‘college- and career-ready’ standards without asking the faculty who teach math at their own higher education institutions to do an analysis of Common Core’s definition of college readiness,” Stotsky said.
Professors Milgram and Stotsky were members of Common Core’s validation committee, which was charged with reviewing each successive draft of the standards, but they both refused to sign off on the academic quality of the national standards.
(Added: You can find more information, which includes many hot links to other Pioneer reports on the Common Core State Standards, here.)
Kentucky’s progress is being closely watched around the country because we are the first state to start testing with Common Core aligned assessments. EdWeek points out that there have been small score gains in most cases when we look at overall average scores, but things start to look less rosy when you break the data out by race.
I was particularly struck by one comment:
“For elementary school students in reading, proficiency rates were either flat (for whites) or declined a little (for all other racial subgroups). Those who stress literacy by third grade as a key target for future student success, a relatively popular approach across states, won’t be pleased by those numbers.”
That’s absolutely right.
The article also quotes from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday:
“Overall, the math and reading scores in grade 3-8 and high school did go up, but the concerns we have is they did not go up fast enough.”
That is mostly correct, as well.
But EdWeek also noted something the commissioner chose to omit:
“(He left out the fact that for some groups of students, scores declined.)”
In year two of a testing program, such score declines are both unexpected and unacceptable. And, overlooking minority performance problems isn’t acceptable, either. Unfortunately, it looks like our Unbridled Learning accountability system may be overlooking minority performance. We’ll be looking into that more in the future.