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Live from the Common Core Hearings at OC Board of Education

Posted by Chris Nguyen on November 17, 2014

We’re live from the OC Board of Education hearings on Common Core. This is an incredibly full audience. It took this blogger 10 minutes to find a parking space.  The hearing is so full that no more people are being let in the hearing room: there are 30 people in the hallway and 50 people outside the building listening to the hearings on loudspeakers the Department of Education set up outdoors.

Stacy Butler of CBS 2/KCAL 9 is here with a cameraman.

There are families with children of all ages, some teenagers who appear to be here of their own volition (!) without adults, senior citizens, and even people with infants.

There are numerous public commenters on both sides of the issue. Despite the controversial nature of the issue and the large crowd, both sides are quite civil. I’ve heard no jeering or booing. There is polite applause after each speaker.

After public comment, Board President Dr. Ken Williams hands the meeting to meeting facilitator Maggie Chidester.

She introduces the proponent panel:
*Gerald Solomon, Executive Director, Samueli Foundation
*Bill McCallum, Professor of Mathematics, University of Arizona
*Doug Grove, Assistant Provost for Adult, Graduate, and Online Learning, Concordia University
*Deborah Brown, Associate Director, Education Policy Children Now

She introduces the opponent panel:
*Zev Wurman, Former Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Planning/Evaluation/Policy Development, US Department of Education
*Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas, The Department of Education Reform
*James Milgram, Professor of Mathematics, Stanford University and former Common Core Validation Committee
*Karen Effrem, President, Education Liberty Watch

Proponent Gerald Solomon spends lots of time on his credentials. He claims 8% of California’s budget goes to education while 10% goes to prisons (that is patently false, as well over 40% goes to K-12 education).

Proponent Bill McCallum states the key principles of Common Core are focusing on important life skills and thinking subjects, coherence by making mathematics an easy to understand language, reorganizing math teaching sequences in a more logical order, conceptual understanding, drawing on prior knowledge, and ensuring students’ college readiness. He says critics have failed to distinguish between college readiness and STEM readiness with liberal arts majors not needing STEM. He calls for continued access to calculus even though Common Core stops at Algebra II. He argues Common Core is the baseline not the ceiling.

Proponent Doug Grove warns that many students are not college ready. He decries six-year graduation rates, dropping out, and student loan defaults due to students not being ready for college. He notes numerous institutions of higher education have endorsed Common Core as a way to prepare students for college or the workforce. He says students need to be able to think critically and apply their skills to real world situations. He is baffled by having a single standardized test at the end of each year for students. He says there is no perfect solution but hopes people can unite behind Common Core to improve student learning.

Proponent Deborah Brown speaks about California being a model for how to implement Common Core. She noted California sped up the timeline for districts to have the tools in place for Common Core. She notes $1.25 billion in state funding was provided to local school districts to implement Common Core. She notes Common Core helping all students speak, read, and write English. She says there is support from all statewide education leaders. She says there is support from business and the four state higher education systems (Community Colleges, CSU, UC, and AICCU).

Opponent Zev Wurman decries math being pushed later with Algebra I being moved to high school. He is concerned that Common Core “squashes the top rather than raising the bottom.” He notes that Common Core delayed algebra by a year compared to previous California standards. He expresses concern about minority and disadvantaged students falling further behind because of Common Core. He is concerned that while middle school students are held accountable for learning standards, but not high school students.

Opponent Sandra Stotsky notes she voted against the Common Core Standards when she was on the Common Core Validation Committee. She was concerned then (and remains concerned now) that the standards are not benchmarked to international standards. She was concerned then (and remains concerned now) that Common Core asks students to both write an objective summary and do an interpretation of the meaning of a text without examining the breadth of literature that led to it. She was concerned then (and remains concerned now) that some of the standards were created without any research.

Opponent James Milgram was on the Common Core Validation Committee and notes China’s math standards far surpass those of Common Core. He says the 1992 standards created a disaster in California and that Common Core seems to be a repeat of 1992. He said only one member of the Common Core Validation Committee on math had experience writing standards, and that one person had written disastrous standards in the past. He notes the Common Core standards were adopted without the validation committee or research based information.

Opponent Karen Effrem states the Common Core standards are academically inferior. She notes one architect of the Common Core standards called them inadequate and another called himself unqualified. She says Bill Gates says we won’t know if they work for ten years. She criticizes Common Core requiring small children to reason abstractly when that is not developed in children’s brains until at least 3rd grade. She criticizes requiring children to solve math problems numerous ways instead of the simplest way. She says psychologists and early childhood experts have said that Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate.

OCBE Trustee Linda Lindholm praises all the panelists and thanks everyone for their perspectives. She thanks teachers and school staff for their work. She asks McCallum about the numerous ways to do math and parental concerns about them.

McCallum supports children working with their parents on homework, but students need to do the work themsleves. He says the numerous ways to do math are a way for students to understand math more comprehensively. He says early assignments are overeager or not following Common Core standards.

OCBE Trustee Jack Bedell expresses concern that his grandson is able to solve math problems with 100% accuracy in traditional means but only 40% using Common Core.

McCallum says having multiple methods available is not the same as requiring every method be used. He believes there is a misinterpretation of the standards.

Bedell asks if this is a federal Obamacare-style imposition on local schools.

Stotsky says several of the test are federally imposed. She points to admissions from professors who stated this was a national Washington effort.

Wurman calls Common Core a federal Washington based program.

Brown says the states have adopted this on their own.

Effrem notes that most states signed an agreement not to alter more than 15% of the curricular material.

Stotsky notes the standards are forced across the country and cannot be amended.

OCBE President Dr. Ken Williams asks Stotsky to elaborate on the inability to amend the standards.

Stotsky says the standards were developed by two Washington, DC-based organizations that copyrighted Common Core and that the standards cannot be amended without violating the copyrights.

Williams asks if California took copyrighted material and created its own standards from them.

Milgram says the tests are still held by the copyright holders, and the standards on the test govern Common Core.

OCBE Trustee Robert Hammond asks a constituent’s question that numerous educational leaders and mathematical societies have endorsed the Common Core standards.

Milgram says that while the leaders of these societies individually wrote letters of support if Common Core achieves what it promises but that the societies did not endorse the standards.

Hammond asks if Common Core will help minority and disadvantaged students.

Solomon says the critical thinking skills taught by Common Core will assist these students in the workforce.

Wurman states that lowering the algebra standards will only harm these students.

Hammond asks if popular perception of Common Core being an experiment on children is reasonable.

Stotsky says there were longstanding Massachusetts standards that have boosted their students to the top and that these were former California standards. She says there is no need for the Common Core experiment.

OCBE Trustee David Boyd asks if there was ever a time when there was national agreement on standards.

Stotsky points to 1890 when the Ivy Leagues formed the College Board.

Boyd asks why Bill Gates has to be vilified and whether his organization is evil.

Stotsky responds the question is whether the Gates Foundation is qualified.

Boyd calls it a healthy debate and is glad the opponents were not excluded from the committee by the proponents.

Stotsky replied they tried.

Wurman says the creators had good intentions but these lower standards will harm student learning.

Boyd asks Effrem about her accusations of data mining.

Effrem says the Common Core standards themselves have nothing to do with data mining, but the Common Core tests are where the data mining is occuring.

Boyd states that the Common Core standards and tests are two different issued.

Effrem responds that the standards cannot function without the tests.

Intermission begins at 8:04 PM.

The hearing resumes at 8:17 PM.

Lindholm asks about the spending on the tests for Common Core. One test is $1 billion while another is $2.46 billion.

Effrem says switching tests cost Florida $220 million plus another $5 million for sample questions from Utah. She is concerned about the AIR contract.

Wurman notes the old California tests cost $20 per student. He says testing under Common Core will cost three times as much. He says the test tries to measure process instead of the right answer.

Brown and Wurman get into a slight cross exchange.

McCallum says AIR is designing the platform not the questions which come from numerous sources, including both teachers and testing companied.

Lindholm expresses concern about California’s low academic rankings and how to address them.

Wurman argues when adjusting for socioeconomic factors, California is the back of the middle of the pack.

Bedell says the OCBE voted 3-2 for Common Core material for the unique special education kids OCBE teaches. He asks what would have happened had the OCBE refused to adopt that.

Wurman says Sacramento would have screamed but there would have been no actual consequences. He says it was part of local authority.

Williams asks how does Common Core affect people. He has 14 affidavits from teachers and parents who have given examples of negative impacts they have suffered from Common Core. He also asks if the Gates Foundation has given any money to Brown’s nonprofit to promote Common Core.

Brown says they receive money from many sources including Gates.

Williams repeats his question if she received money from the Gates Foundation to promote Common Core.

Brown says yes.

Williams asks Wurman about his comments on the math standards.

Wurman discusses how the old standards helped improve the performance of California students.

Williams asks how California can get to where Massachusetts is on education.

Stotsky says the prior standards need to be restored in order to achieve the levels that Massachusetts students are reaching.

Williams asks about the data mining.

Effrem points to her 22 page report. She also says the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has been gutted to allow any tangentially related organization to get student data.

Williams asks how can the OCBE stop the data mining.

Wurman says the only way is to stop using the Common Core consortium tests. Otherwise, the information goes to Washington.

Hammond asks about online testing in Common Core.

Brown says the new technology will help better assess the students.

Hammond asks when Common Core was adopted.

Three of the experts said June 2010.

Hammond asks when were the tests internationally benchmarked.

McCallum said the standards from several states and several Asian countries were used. He noted those standards frequently didn’t agree.

Milgram says technically, international standards were looked at, and the Common Core standards match them but are two years behind.

Stotsky says they are not really standards but skills instead, so they cannot be internationally benchmarked because everyone has these skills.

Hammond asks if the Common Core standards are in violation of State Education Code requiring international benchmarking based on what Stotsky said.

Grove says there are multiple definitions of benchmarking.

McCallum disputes that the standards are two years behind.

Boyd asks if any of the panelists have ever served on a school board. He notes that Hugh Hewitt wanted the OCBE to file a federal lawsuit to overturn Common Core. He says that would have cost $800,000 to $1,000,000.

Stotsky says that the local OCBE can set high standards without needing to sue the federal government. If the state attempted to withhold money, then she says OCBE could sue the state government.

Wurman says there have been successful lawsuits against the federal government for overreach.

The panelists now give their closing remarks.

Proponent Solomon says employment requiring STEM will increase by a quarter by 2020. These jobs earn more money. These jobs do not necessarily require college degrees. There are not enough people to fill these posts. He says math is a universal language that helps real world experiences. He says Common Core math is like remodeling an outdated house while keeping what is good. He says there is temporary inconvenience but long term benefit.

McCallum says that standards are the baseline for students. He says there need to be standards even if the federal government went away. He says Common Core is an agreement among states. He says Common Core started with state school chief officers in 2007. The National Governors Association joined in 2009. He says while he helped write the Common Core standards, he never spoke with a representative of the federal government or the Gates Foundation. He spoke of teachers providing feedback. He spoke of receiving 10,000 public comments while drafting the Common Core standards. He found California feedback helpful, such as moving multiplication tables from 4th grade to 3rd grade. He says a depth not breadth approach is used in other countries and Common Core seeks to do that. He says Common Core is a long overdue promise to children and are an historic agreement among states.

Grove says he applied for three Gates Foundation grants and got rejected on all three. He says the assessment discussion focused more on data mining. He says the real data used are data teachers gather daily in the classroom. He says the assessment data came too late for teachers in 2010. He says the 2014 data has a lot more support to ensure students benefit and more data is available to teachers to help improve student performance. He says Common Core is an opportunity for schools and students going into college or the workforce. He says something has to be done because students are not ready for college or the workforce. He says higher education in California has embraced Common Core.

Brown says there is bipartisan support for Common Core from hundreds of groups and policymakers. She appreciates that diverse viewpoints were represented. She says California is significantly changing its education standards. She says there is more local control of funding. She says supporting teachers is critical.

Opponent Wurman says Common Core is behind on algebra. He says 4-5 studies noted that Common Core is behind. He considers Common Core smoke and mirrors. He says there used to be algebra in 8th grade, but Common Core has forced it to 9th grade. He says Common Core’s 8th grade curriculum might match the old 7th grade curriculum in California. He says Common Core is supposed to consist of standards but is full of pedagogy. He says the Common Core tests require too much guessing. He says disadvantaged students will be most damaged by Common Core’s math delay. He points to multiple school districts where students taking advanced math has fallen precipitously since Common Core. He points out that California’s K-8 standards were actually more focused before Common Core. He points to Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond stating she would oppose Common Core if she had a say.

Stotsky said content knowledge is proven from her experience on national education boards. She is not opposed to national standards nut simply finds Common Core to be a poor standard. She says the literature standards are not rigorous and not benchmarked against other English-speaking countries. She says reading literature is how to develop analytical skills, and this is reduced by Common Core. She says there is a mix of skills and pedagogy in Common Core. She says that Common Core uses content-free skills that could apply to the Three Little Pigs as well as Moby Dick. She says the writing standards are developmentally inappropriate. She notes students are now getting excerpts of literary works rather than whole pieces of literature. She urges the OCBE to adopt the old standards from before Common Core. She urges hiring teachers who taught before Common Core.

Milgram speaks of his time on the Common Core Validation Committee. At first, there was a path to calculus, which he supported. The final version of the standards stop at Algebra II. He says there is only a 33% chance that college freshmen whose high school education stopped at Algebra II will graduate with a degree. He said for students majoring in STEM, it falls to just 2%. He notes high achieving countries start Algebra I in 7th grade, yet Common Core starts it in 9th grade. He makes that clear that Common Core math is two years behind. He says the claims that UC, CSU, AICCU, and community college leaders signed a letter saying if Common Core will deliver what it promises, they would support it. It didn’t say they supported it.

Effrem says the Giselle Child Development Institute, child development experts, and psychologists have expressed that Common Core is developmentally inappropriate. She questions how Common Core’s computer-adaptive testing is compatible with uniform standards and comparisons. She says AIR is involved with the Social Genome data mining effort.

Chidester thanks all the panelists.

Williams thanks staff, panelists, and public for their participation and adjourns at 9:37 PM.

4 Responses to “Live from the Common Core Hearings at OC Board of Education”

  1. Dara said

    So thankful for individuals with no personal gain to speak out against this federal take over of our children’s education. Thank you Drs. Stotsky, Milgram, Wurman, Effrem.

  2. TR said

    Fantastic rundown. Thank you!!

  3. Pat said

    Thank you!! This was most helpful to those of us not able to attend.

  4. Robyn Nordell said

    Hi Chris -outstanding job! So helpful for those of us who were not able to attend this meeting.

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