Stanford Prof James Milgram on Common Core’s Math Failures, ‘Low Expectations’ – “A Political Document”

Below the math worksheets, including a cheat sheet for parents, is the testimony of James Milgram, retired Professor (emeritus) from Stanford University, a member of the Common Core Validation committee, and the only “content expert” for the committee. Have you heard Common Core referred to as a “political document” before? Probably not, but Professor Milgram refers to it in that way. Heard that it is a program of “low expectations? Yes, that one you’ve probably heard, if you’ve been paying attention. Read his statement below and go to work in your state opposing this nationwide attack on our children. If there is even one defense of the new Common Core math, I’d love to hear it — just to be objective, of course, because don’t we all want to be objective? Uh huh. Dee Lucas, a Facebook friend provided the first  Common Core math sheet below. The video details it and shows reactions from alleged George Mason University students. Caleb Bonham is the interviewer.

Pullout Quote:

  • Core Standards – in large measure a political document that, in spite of a number of real strengths, is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high achieving countries give dramatically better results; ~ Professor Emeritus Stanford University

Math-Speak (a cheat sheet for parents):

Common Core - Old Language, New Language
Retired Stanford University Professor James Milgram is one of the national reviewers of both the first and second drafts of the Texas math standards. He was one of the 25 members of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) Validation Committee (Common Core) — AND THE ONLY CONTENT EXPERT IN MATHEMATICS. As he testified in Texas in support a bill to prevent Common Core in that state, he says many had input into CC math standards, and he intimates that some had a special agenda, including “making the standards as non-challenging as possible:”

As a result, there are a number of extremely serious failings in Core Standards that make it premature for any state with serious hopes for improving the quality of the mathematical education of their children to adopt them. This remains true in spite of the fact that more than 35 states have already adopted them.

For example, by the end of fifth grade the material being covered in arithmetic and algebra in Core Standards is more than a year behind the early grade expectations in most high achieving countries. By the end of seventh grade Core Standards are roughly two years behind.

  • Typically, in those countries, much of the material in Algebra I and the first semester of Geometry is covered in grades 6, 7, or 8, and by the end of ninth grade, students will have finished all of our Algebra I, almost all of our Algebra II content, and our Geometry expectations, including proofs, all at a more sophisticated level than we expect.
  • Consequently, in many of the high achieving countries, students are either expected to complete a standard Calculus course, or are required to finish such a course to graduate from High School (and over 90% of the populations typically are high school graduates).

Besides the issue mentioned above, Core Standards in Mathematics have very low expectations. When we compare the expectations in Core Standards with international expectations at the high school level we find, besides the slow pacing, that Core Standards only cover Algebra I, much but not all of the expected contents of Geometry, and about half of the expectations in Algebra II. Also, there is no discussion at all of topics more advanced than these.

Problems with the actual mathematics in Core Math Standards As a result of all the political pressure to make Core Standards acceptable to the special interest groups involved, there are a number of extremely problematic mathematical decisions that were made in writing them. Chief among them are:

1. The Core Mathematics Standards are written to reflect very low expectations. More exactly, the explicitly stated objective is to prepare students not to have to take remedial mathematics courses at a typical community college. They do not even cover all the topics that are required for admission to any of the state universities around the country, except possibly those in Arizona, since the minimal expectations at these schools are three years of mathematics including at least two years of algebra and one of geometry.

  • Currently, about 40% of entering college freshmen have to take remedial mathematics.
  • For such students there is less than a 2% chance they will ever successfully take a college calculus course.
  • Calculus is required to major in essentially all of the most critical areas: engineering, economics, medicine, computer science, the sciences, to name just a few.

2. An extremely unusual approach to geometry from grade 7 on, focusing on rigid transformations.  It was argued by members of the writing committee that this approach is rigorous (true), and is, in fact, the most complete and accurate development of the foundations of geometry that is possible at the high school level (also probably true).  But

  • it focuses on sophisticated structures teachers have not studied or even seen before.
  • As a result, maybe one in several hundred teachers will be capable of teaching the new material as intended.
  • However, there is an easier thing that teachers can do – focus on student play with rigid transformations, and the typical curriculum that results would be a very superficial discussion of geometry, and one where there are no proofs at all.

Realistically, the most likely outcome of the Core Mathematics geometry standards is the complete suppression of the key topics in Euclidean geometry including proofs and deductive reasoning.

The new Texas Mathematics Standards

As I am sure you are aware, Texas has spent the past year constructing new draft mathematics standards, and I was one of the national reviewers of both the first and second drafts. The original draft did a better job of pacing than Core Standards, being about one year ahead of them by the end of eighth grade, so not nearly as far behind international expectations. Additionally, they contained a reasonable set of standards for a pre-calculus course, and overall a much more reasonable set of high school standards.

There were a large number of problems as well – normal for a first draft. However, the second draft had fixed almost all of these issues, and the majority of my comments on the second draft were to suggest fixes for imprecise language and some clarifications of what the differences are between the previous approaches to the lower grade material in this country and the approaches in the high achieving countries.

It is also worth noting that the new Texas lower grade standards are closer to international approaches to the subject than those of any other state.

I think it is safe to say that the new Texas Math Standards that are finally approved by the Texas Board of Education will be among the best, if not the best, in the country. (I cannot say this with complete certainty until I have seen the final draft. But since I am, again, one of the national reviewers, this should be very soon.)

So it seems to me that you have a clear choice between

  • Core Standards – in large measure a political document that, in spite of a number of real strengths, is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high achieving countries give dramatically better results;
  • The new Texas Standards that show every indication of being among the best, if not the best, state standards in the country. They are written to prepare student to both enter the workforce after graduation, and to take calculus in college if not earlier. They also reflect very well, the approaches to mathematics education that underlie the results in the high achieving countries.

For me, at least, this would not be a difficult choice. So for these many reasons I strongly support HR 2923, and hope the distinguished members of this committee will support it as well.

Respectfully, R. James Milgram

Professor Milgram’s statement courtesy of Parents Across America.

Check out this list of groups against Common Core and know that you are not alone.

Related and Background — My Posts on Common Core:

Gov Mary Fallin’s Common Core Exe Order: Is Oklahoma Using Pearson Educators Anywhere In The State?

Robert Small, Concerned Parent Arrested, Jailed for Public Meeting “Activism”

The Badass Teachers Association (BAT) – Progressive Teachers Don’t Like Common Core

***Common Core — The Qatar Connection: A Wahhabi state Skypes With Your Children — Connect All Schools***

Common Core: Children Morphed Into Human Capital — Tracking children By Blood Type, Birth Marks, Eye Color

Common Core: Mandated Not Law, Not Funded, Not Evidence-Based, Not Field-Tested, No Pilot Program

Common Core Math: Knowing 3 x 4 is 12 Is NOT The Focus — Explaining Why 3 x 4 is 11 IS The Focus

Common Core: Publicly Funded Office of Non-Public Schools: Read the American Principles Project Scathing Critique

Common Core: David Coleman Rewriting PSATs, SATs: Coleman Connections — Obama, Bill Ayers and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge

Common Core: Naive, Deceived, Not Paying Attention? Controlling Your Child’s Mind

Common Core: Data-Less Decision Making in Obama Education Reform

Common Core Warnings: Research for Parents, School Boards, Superintendents, State Legislators

Video below –  Caleb Bonham at George Mason University

George Mason University Students Are Shocked at Common Core Math (video)
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