Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SFGate: State school board adopts Common Core standards

This from SFGate:
California will toss out its current curriculum and require students to read the same textbooks and learn the same arithmetic as children in most other states, the Board of Education decided Monday.

The board unanimously adopted national academic standards to be in sync with schools across the country. So far, about 30 other states have also adopted the so-called Common Core State Standards.

The new content means discarding the standards California officials adopted about 13 years ago - standards widely considered among the best in the country.

Yet despite initial concerns that the new national academic standards would dumb down California's curriculum, state education officials said Monday that with just a few tweaks and some additional content, the new standards will give kids a stronger, more organized approach to math and English.

"The Common Core standards build upon the best of California's rigorous standards with the best of what other states and high-performing countries offer their students," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "They are designed to be relevant to the real world, and reflect the knowledge and skills that students need for success in college and work."


  1. Does this mean no more Everyday Math?

  2. Does this have any implications for teaching methodologies like Balanced Literacy and Everyday Math?

  3. www.corestandards.org

    There's a map of the states which have adopted the standards. Texas is not among them.

  4. The Common Core web site lists Core Knowledge Resource as one of its links for materials to teach content. Core Knowledge Resource's math recommendations are Singapore Math or Saxon Math. For what it's worth, I asked our son's grandfather, who's a prominent physicist, to do a little research on the options and tell me what he thought, since the math I learned went in one ear and out the other. He concluded that Saxon Math was a better choice than Everyday Math. Zion Lutheran will be using Saxon Math starting next year. Do people know what other private schools in SF use? Will the publics be switching? What do the teachers think?

  5. Brandeis uses Singapore Math, I hear it is a very successful program, but neither of my children go there.

  6. Lower standards mean higher test scores. Who can argue with that?

  7. California has suspended textbook adoption cycles; presumably publishers will create new, Common Core-aligned textbooks and whenever the state can afford an adoption, we'll have a new program. I'm quite sure that the Language Arts adoption will come first, though.

    I've taught Saxon Math. It is significantly below California's grade level standards at all grade levels. It may be more in line with the Common Core standards.

    For Kindergarten, I think its calendar routine is pretty good; I still use a variant of it today. Otherwise the program needs enormous supplementation. It offers only three lessons a week and each is about fifteen minutes long. It is a spiraling program, but inconsistently so.

    Saxon Math is fairly easy to use right off the bat; its manipulatives are few and require very little pre-planning. It is also entirely scripted, from teacher action to student response (including possible incorrect answers). To fully implement the program, all I had to do was cut out some number cards and procure about fifty dollars in change (the program is against using play money).

    Everyday Math requires a great deal of advance work for teachers. The manipulative requirements are fairly heavy; once you've made them, you have them forever but it's a lot of work. I personally feel that implementation in SFUSD would have been better had that time been provided; it wasn't. However, once that work is done my experience with the program has been very positive; I think it balances quite well between programs like Math Land (touchy-feely) and Saxon (rote). Math thinking and math automaticity are both important and both get covered.

    I don't like the homework portion; I think the ideas are good but assume a lot of adult time is available for one-on-one activities.

    In terms of Language Arts, the Common Core standards are broadly in favor of a Balanced Literacy approach. For Kindergarten, they remind me of the starfall.com materials in terms of coverage more than they do either HM or Open Court.

  8. Thanks for the review from the classroom, E.Rat. So it sounds like Saxon Math or Singapore would be a move to more rote learning, and perhaps a downgrade from your perspective (though easier to implement out of the box). And the literacy materials might be more balanced, on the other hand. (Is that what you said? Trying to understand.)

    This will make the hard/rote (to use words from both sides of the math wards debate) people happy.

    As a parent, I felt that Everyday Math was very balanced, *if* it was taught well. We had a couple of excellent years and one that was more confusing.

  9. Yes. The idea of Balanced Literacy is that you use both phonics and whole language approaches to teach reading. Students get authentic and rich experiences with literature, write often, explore sounds and sight words, etc.

    Open Court and HM are both very phonics-heavy, especially Open Court. I personally believe that whole language is very effective but requires an almost superhuman ability to monitor and track individual student progress. Without that, some students will be lost.

    I do hope that the Common Core standards will lead to exciting new reading programs or that detailed implementation information will make it possible for schools and districts to create reading programs without a textbook purchase. The math standards I find less impressive.

  10. The last few comments seem to imply that Saxon and Singapore rely on rote learning, as if direct and explicit instruction means memorization of procedures in isolation from the conceptual underpinnings. Neither Saxon nor Singapore do that. There also seems to be an implication that Everyday Math provides the conceptual understanding that these commenters assume Saxon and Singapore leave out. Everyday Math does an extremely poor job of providing conceptual understanding as well as procedures.

  11. I have described my experiences with the two programs I have personally taught. My comments are based upon my knowledge of the programs and my students' performance in mathematics. I personally have a fairly strong background in math, and that also informs my views. I have very limited experience with Singapore Math, and have not commented upon it at all.

    I am not interested in fighting the math wars with a partisan, but I do think you need to respect opinions that differ from your own.

  12. Hm, I'm glad to hear that whole language isn't ruling the day anymore. I've taught and tutored students from that era, and their literacy levels are dismal. I never did understand what, precisely, was wrong with phonics. With math, I just hope to avoid my own experience of having been tormented and insulted out of basic competency.