Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Letter Re: My Concerns With Common Core


Dear Governor Herbert, Utah State School Board, State Superintendent Menlove, Attorney General Swallow, State Legislators, Local School Boards, et al.:

As an involved parent, I am extremely concerned about the work my children are bringing home as a result of the Utah Common Core State Standards (“CCSS”). Below you will find some of my concerns.

First, my children are NOT merely bricks in a wall. They are unique and wonderful children! They have different strengths and weaknesses. My daughter - like her lawyer father - is more geared towards language, words, reading and logic. My son - like his college-educated mother - is more gifted in mathematics and science. My third son is a healthy mixture of the two. My daughter prefers to learn through practical examples and illustrations while my six year-old son likes to learn through straightforward facts and numbers. We cannot successfully parent and teach each of them the same way, so how do you propose that CCSS can successfully teach them and their unique classmates in the exact same manner?

Second, my children are overwhelmed with the amount of unnecessary busy homework they have to complete when they get home from school. To begin with, the kids are awake from about 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Of those 13 waking hours they are at school from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Then when they get home, they read for 25 minutes and take about 27 minutes to complete homework - and they are in 1st and 3rd grade! I’ll make this really simple using the “Lattice Method”: there are 60 minutes in one hour and the kids are awake for 13 hours, so they are awake for 3x0 + 3x6 + 0x1 + 6x1 / / / hours. They spend 0x7 + 7x7 + 0x0 + 7x0 / / / at school. Then, they spend 25 + (27 + 3 = 30) = 45 - 3 = 42 minutes doing homework. That only leaves 780 (+20 to round to 800) minutes minus 420 (subtract 20 to round to 400) minus 42 (subtract 2 to round to 40) minutes to spend with their family and to just be kids and learn on their own. Yeah, that’s 800 - 400 = 400 minus 20 = 380 minus 20 = 360 minus 42 homework minutes (subtract 2 to round to 40) equals 320 minus 2 to get to 318 free minutes. It would be one thing if the homework stimulated their brains or if the work was preparing them for the real world, but it is full of mindless estimations and backward mathematical methods, as demonstrated above.

Third [I will give you 30 seconds to read this paragraph. If you do not read it in 30 seconds, you are not up to MY standards], there is an over-utilization of timed reading in the curriculum and not enough focus on comprehension.  When I was in elementary school, I learned to read and comprehend what I was reading. I don’t know how many words I could read in a minute at each level, but I learned to read at a comfortable pace, while absorbing the material I was reading. Is there some time-sensitive aspect of the “global economy” that I don’t understand? I have lived in Southeast Asia and all over the United States, I have completed 20 years of education and have passed a Bar exam; I do not remember ever benefiting from being able to read something at the fastest pace possible with there being no inherent penalties/drawbacks for lack of comprehension. Why is this so important to state standards? You may have read this paragraph in 30 seconds, but did you comprehend it? It matters.

Fourth, as I mentioned above, I have lived in Asia and I have witnessed many of the school systems there. The students are generally sharp, disciplined and dedicated to their work. The work, however, usually requires almost exclusively memorization and regurgitation. I often hear that the Asian education system is so wonderful and America is way behind in education because the kids in Asia score well on tests, but I don’t see a lot of innovation coming from those countries. Sure, they they produce many great products, but I don’t recall many breakthroughs coming from Asia. Am I wrong? They are generally good at following instructions and reproducing results, but I have found a huge inability to think outside the box, to interpret unique data, and to understand context. In my experience, many of them (but not all) are followers, but not thinkers. Why would you want to create students like that here in America? It’s almost as if you are trying to create a generation of followers and not thinkers…

Fifth, I have an assignment for you. Assume that the Constitution of the United States is outdated and needs to be changed (that shouldn’t be too hard for some of you). You - a Federal government agency - want to develop a one-size-fits-all education system for the entire Nation, but the Constitution does not specifically grant that right to your agency. What would you add or take away from the Constitution in order to make this new standard system of education constitutional? You will need to prioritize, prune and add text to turn your system into a constitutionally acceptable form of education. Then, propose a plan for how to lure the States to go along with your education program. Money is not an issue; you can promise them as much money as it takes, but you must get them signed up. Your proposal will be submitted in its final form as a persuasive presentation to the American people. They have been given the important individual charge - by their Creator - to educate their own children and, having partially delegated that responsibility to local school districts, will judge your proposal based on the validity and veracity of your arguments as to whether you have any right and/or ability to educate their children in the manner proposed. Your score will not be shared with you. We will keep your proposal in our database for future reference.

Sixth, suppose you are the Governor of Utah and in your 2012 gubernatorial election you received 624,678 votes, or 68.4%. Further suppose that during the Republican convention, you received 2,253 votes, or 57.67%. Now suppose that since your election your supporters, who oppose Common Core at the federal and state level, discover that you support Common Core at one or both of those levels. Suppose that these supporters are very serious about the education of their children and do not approve of their elected leaders supporting such a massive, radical form of standardized education. If (let’s put our estimation hats on) half of those supporters become former supporters and choose to vote for one of your Republican challengers instead of you, how many people would still support you in the convention and, if you survive the convention, how many Utahans would turn out to vote for you in the next election? The number is not important. The WHY is everything. As long as you understand WHY, maybe, just maybe you will survive in the Utah - not global - economy.

Thank you for your time and attention to our concerns. As parents of OUR children, my wife and I have the ultimate responsibility for educating OUR children and preparing them for the future. We take OUR responsibility very seriously. You, as public “servants,” work for US. If you do not serve the good of OUR children, we will relieve you of your post or we will remove our children from your collective, destructive influence.

Your Bosses,
The Halls

31 comments:

Leslie said...

LOVED this! thank you!

Lisa said...

fantastic. keep it up! this was shared on fb by several people tonight!

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Well said!!!

Oak said...

Amen. Love the lattice math explanation. :) There is a reason Utah adopted the integrated math option with Common Core. It was to implement constructivist fuzzy math into the schools statewide.

Anonymous said...

I love it. Thank you.

Tammy said...

Well written!

Nellie said...

Wonderfully written and parents need to remember we are the Boss! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

However, religion does not belong in the classroom as much as it does not belong in our government! If you decide to educate your children without scientific and evolutionary knowledge, then don't be surprised when they do not fit into the future of society... Because that is exactly what will happen.

renee' said...

FANTASTIC! I posted this to Gov. Herbert's FB page. I hope you sent it to all the legislators (senators and reps) and state school board. Very well written!

Unknown said...

Do you know the Serenity Prayer? You can't change others, but you can change YOU and how your family functions. Don't like it, then ***HOME SCHOOL*** your children like I do. You pick your own curriculum to teach your children all the subjects they need to know, which only takes 2-4 hours out of YOUR DAY to teach them. Simple as that. AND IT GIVES YOU MORE FAMILY TIME TOGETHER AND PLAY TIME FOR YOUR KIDS.

Anonymous said...

Really? Is that what you got out of this post, that the author wishes not to teach children science and evolution and wants religion taught in the classroom? You must have passed the speed reading test, but not with comprehension.

Stacy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stacy said...

Brilliant! I could not have said it better.

love.boxes said...

Brilliant!

Tonia Fraser said...

Interesting... I teach math (and have taught common core for the past 3 years), and don't find your math example pertinent to what I'm seeing at all. Perhaps your choice of school is part of the problem. Not all schools or districts are making the CCSS math much different than what kids are already used to before common core. We teach in a different order and have raised the content we teach by almost a full year, but other than that, its not as abstract as you portray. You should investigate how other schools are implementing it, or how other schools are OVER implementing it.

Utah employer said...

I put the CC "method" of elementary and secondary mathematics in front of an architect, computer programmer and statistician. All with advanced degrees. They laughed. Then they sighed with disappointment that our kids are being taught methods and concepts that will never ready them for college courses in math, science, technology or engineering. How sad that our governor is patting himself on the back for adopting a dumbed down curriculum and yet brags that Utah will have 66% of kids with college degrees by 2020. I could teach that a car is a verb, but it doesn't make it correct.

Stacey said...

My favorite paragraph by far is the one in which you use the ridiculous math that is being taught. I am very afraid that my 3rd grader will be drawing dots and lines to do math computations when she's 30.

sean said...

Wow! Religion doesn't belong in government? There's a reason they put "In God We Trust" on our most important documents and our currency. Believing in a higher power is extremely important for having a strong moral base. The government is not a higher power and people need to stop believing in it. We need to to believe in people, ideals, liberty and start putting the value of "life" above all else. I don't mean specific religion, I just mean the values and moral systems that stem from most religions. I guess taking my kids to the zoo and pointing at the apes will do? I'm sure you'll excuse me if I at least teach them that flinging poop is no longer social acceptable. Is funny that as a race we have come so far with a belief in God but that we can only advance into the future and continue to thrive if we let go of that belief and think that "we" are the higher beings. I know a few things about a few things but, some of the most important things I know are that there is a higher power, I'm not him, and thank heavens I was created in his image and not yours.

grandmafaith said...

Great letter. Some of the comments in response to it remind me how narrow we can be as thinking people. Some want to be intelligent of their own accord, they built their own brain and memory. Yet, all nature testifies that God placed precious intelligence within their soul, and within every creature and human. I learned a long time ago after some mini strokes that the brain can be taught and trained better with prayer; much faster than trying to learn on my own merits. I am a true believer that the Spirit helps the young, as well as the older student, learn in a personal way, and will bring recall and true comprehension in testing experiences. If not, then why wisdom?

Susan said...

Couldn't have said it better!

Anonymous said...

I like your writing style. Unfortunately, the content of your article blew your cover and made it blatantly clear that you have not read the mathematics or language arts common core. If you had, you would be thrilled for your daughter, who excels with words, because she will have the opportunity to use writing and speaking to express her math thinking. You would see the parts of the core that address mathematical thinking and accurate procedures and you would delight that those will come naturally to your son. Hopefully, you would also welcome the challenge for your children to stretch beyond what comes naturally to them. You would see that the math core is well-balanced, just as you describe your youngest son. Where are parents getting the idea that the CCSS limits teachers in the way they present information to each individual student? I'll tell you where they are NOT getting it. From the core. It's not in there. If your child's teacher is not meeting your child's learning needs, that is an issue with the teacher and not the core. CCSS defines what topics are appropriate for each grade level. It does not encourage teachers to teach all students the same way. In fact, it does the opposite. I recommend you pick one grade level and read through the entire core. Please also read the introduction by the authors and the Standards of Mathematical Practices. Particularly if you are going to publish articles about it.

Ahhhh, the great homework debate. I see your children are fairly new to the education system, but I can assure you the homework debate is not. If you assign homework, half the parents are angry because it interferes with family/soccer/dance/piano/video game/whatever time. If you decide to not give homework, the other half of the parents are angry because they feel homework is a critical part of their child's education. I can assure you that homework is decided upon by your child's teacher or possibly (I doubt it) by your school's administrator. It is not defined, or even mentioned, in the core. I challenge you to find where in the core it tells teachers what kind or amount of homework to give. You won't find it. It doesn't exist. The homework topic is unrelated to the core and should be addressed with your child's teacher.

I was very amused at your snarky comment regarding lattice. I've never been a fan of lattice because it is cumbersome and does not promote place value understanding. The reason for my amusement was the red flag that you (and the commenters who cheered) have not read the core. Lattice was specifically listed in Utah's previous core (by the way, where were all these 'concerned parents' in 2007 when THAT core was adopted. It was far inferior to CCSS and no one seemed to care). I was relieved to see that lattice is not in the CCSS. In fact, it states that by fourth grade all students should be able to fluently multiply multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm. I'm sure you see the irony here. The very thing you were making fun of has been eliminated and improved upon by the common core. I can appreciate your attempt at humor, but again it is based on inaccurate information.

This is getting redundant, but if you had read the language arts core you would see that your comment that it focuses too heavily on timed fluency and not comprehension is completely unfounded. Fluency is but a small (yet important) component of the well-balanced language arts core. Your children are young, and naturally the emphasis in fluency becomes less important in thebupper grades. May I suggest you take a look at the sixth grade core and tell me again that there is not a strong focus on comprehension.

Anonymous said...

I asked where parents are getting this incorrect information, but I know the answer. They are relying on social media (which is fueled by political extremists and scare tactics) and trusting that the information they read is accurate. Visit www.corestandards.org. Pick a grade and start reading. It will be a much better use of your time. I understand that most parents are too busy to do this and will continue to buy into the political garbage (on both sides) rather than read and appreciate the integrity of the core itself. However, from "involved parents," a "lawyer father," and a "college-educated mother, " I expected more.

I see from your profile that you are a published author. I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase, "write what you know." I sincerely hope you choose to take a look at the core. Until then, you may want to stick to other topics.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious which CC "method" you showed them, as there are many many research-based methods addressed in the core. Also, did you help them study the core in its entirety so they would see how each method eventually leads to an algorithm once the students are developmentally ready? Another thought...the whole push behind the core was because our workforce is unprepared to perform well and we are trying to fix that. Today's students don't need to worry about pleasing workers, they're going to REPLACE them.

David and Rebecca Campbell said...

Wow, apparently you have an "anonymous" troll. Anyway, your use of the lattice method blew me away! Seriously, I liked your point about Asian countries and the types of students they produce. I had never thought of it in that way before. One thing that we need to think about it why Herbert adopted this so easily. Money, power, secret combinations, a hand up into the global elite, pacts with the devil? I don't think it was out of any pure motives. I'm going to assume all of the above until Herbert tells me otherwise. Doesn't anyone want to know WHY this is happening? Because the common core curriculum certainly isn't the easiest or the best. I feel like we need to know this to more effectively fight against it.

Anonymous said...

I have a master's degree in math education, and the lattice method is a wonderful tool for multi-digit multiplication problems. It makes absolutely no sense when written out in paragraph form, but the diagram is actually a lot easier for a lot of children to understand than the "regular" vertical alignment multiplication. It doesn't require any more steps, and it leads to greater accuracy.

Anonymous said...

I homeschool as well, but I disagree with you. We should absolutely still be involved and try to change bad policies.

Angela said...

I am curious if miss or mr anonymous has looked into the other side like he claimed we need to look into his side? Does anonymous find Dreaming in Cuba a good book for a tenth grade child to read? Does anonymous see nothing wrong with core being adopted in such a way that went way against the constitution? That is a red flag. So as wonderful as the core seems to be, I won't buy into it. Of course it has to look good to be bought. But it is full of lies and deceit.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous sounds like a brainwashed administrator!

No, things can't be addressed so easily with teachers, because teachers aren't allowed to discuss common core, they are only allowed to implement it. And they have no time to differentiate because they are overwhelmed with the new requirements, and fearful of losing their jobs.

School administrators are not listening. The only way for parents to discuss it is on social media and grass roots efforts. But many parents are afraid of ramifications too.

Anonymous said...

I'm in NYC and except for the timed reading, it's the same story here. Thank you for writing this. If we all send letters like this - and we should - they'd have to chuck it out.

Anonymous said...

You are obviously very involved in your children's education the way a parent should be. The problem with our country is that we are so afraid of offending our citizens and so instead of creating standards for our adults, we decide to that we can impose them on children instead because they aren't old enough to vote yet.

So many children of these underperforming schools do not have parents who are involved. I cannot even tell you how many innercity parents in a class of 30, do not even come to pick up their child's report card. They don't even care to ask how their child is performing in school. Instead of doing what needs to be done and demanding parents step up to the plate and work with both their children and educators, we decide that the children must continue to suffer even more. Yes, let's make a curriculum that is so ridiculously above our students age appropriate developmental levels and that will make them be more successful.

How about just demanding our parents provide love and support to our children, making our kids feel safe and valued? Perhaps demanding parents teach our kids to feel worthy and know that they have someone they can rely on for help and support, then our children will begin performing better. How about we demand that parents go back to teaching our children values and morals and how to have empathy for others?

Too many children come home to empty homes because the parent is out working. Maybe if things weren't so dang expensive in our country, parents who must work to survive would be able to spend more time with their children. Or how about children who come from homes of 10 children and their family is on welfare. How is this possible? The parent cant even take care of him/herself. How is it possible they are fit to care for 10 other extremely impressionable lives?

So I am all for it. The common core standards are ridiculous. It is the governments attempt to make it seem as though they are solving a problem when in actuality they are just creating a distraction to avoid having to solve the real problems we are facing.

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