Summer Help in Math

** Do your children need outside help in math?
Have them take a free placement test
to see which skills are missing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vern Williams: My "teaching philosophy"

By Vern Williams, math teacher

(Originally published on the Math Reasoning Web site . Republished here with permission from the author, Vern Williams.)

A very short story by Vern Williams. One night I walked into the 4 3/8 dimension and actually believed the following:
  • We should write about math but never do math.
  • Correcting students' papers using red ink is a threat to children's self esteem and that red pens should be banned from all public schools.
  • Howard Gardner was right about his multiple intelligence theory (I think that he claims about nine at the moment) and that schools should value bodily-kinesthetic ability and the intelligence of self as much as mathematical and linguistic ability.
  • The war on intellectual excellence is a great thing. It will make us all equal.
  • Teachers Unions are actually concerned about students.
  • Advanced courses and gifted programs should be banned because they are elitist and unfair. Since everyone is gifted in their own way (see Howard Gardner), why have special gifted programs?
  • There are no bored students in US public schools.
  • We can teach thinking even when there is no content to think about.
  • We should treat members of politically protected minority groups as victims.
  • We should never view our students as individuals but as members of racial and ethnic groups.
  • We should buy into the latest educational fad even if it's based on political correctness and has nothing to do with learning or common sense.
  • There is no money wasted on administration, specialists, and useless programs. In fact, we should have more of each.
  • I should join the NCTM.
  • I should join the NEA.
  • I should feel guilty because I teach smart kids.
  • I should feel really guilty because I enjoy teaching smart kids.
I finally woke up in a cold sweat from this nightmare and asked myself does anyone actually believe those things? The answer is a resounding yes. Unfortunately the people who believe them are running our school systems and colleges of education. I do my very best to shield my students from the effects of educational fads, political correctness and anti intellectualism that we experience every day in public schools.

I now offer an excerpt from a final reflection that I wrote for a graduate course that I took at George Mason University in 2004 titled Strategies and Models for Teaching the Gifted.

All of the models that I encountered in this course were either made up, i.e. Gardner and Sternberg, or the creator took an obvious set of routine teaching strategies and turned them into complex systems complete with special language, charts (If I see one more chart, I really will scream!!) and theories. An excellent example would be my second lesson plan on Spherical Geometry. I know that the lesson is perfect for GT students. How do I know? I taught it. It took me fifteen minutes to write for you and three to four hours to relate it to the models and strategies. In addition, I had to add to the lesson to make it fit some of the models and yet, the parts that I added, I would never teach. Imagine if I were creating the lesson from scratch and attempted to use one or more of the models as a framework. I would go out of my mind. I could plan and write the lesson in a half hour using common sense or five hours using a model. There is one curriculum model that needs to be included in every college GT course, "The Common Sense Approach." Bruner and Van Tassel Baska had the two common sense models, but again, they made them complicated.

OK, I need to offer some solutions. I already mentioned one, use an excellent textbook written for very bright students. I always use the following as a guide when I teach gifted students. Am I teaching content to them in a way that I cannot teach it to average students? If the answer is no, then you are not teaching a GT curriculum regardless of the model or strategy being used. Am I teaching very advanced, new, and difficult material that cannot be taught to average students in a reasonable time period? If the answer is no, a model won't cure this, only an in depth knowledge of content and an excellent textbook will. Do I find the material challenging and interesting? If I don't, they won't. Do I recognize and appreciate their brilliance and their advanced quirky sense of humor? If the answer is no, do you really think that a complex curriculum model will help?

Here is the perfect college GT curriculum course.

Offer a series of GT courses that are discipline specific. Specify and in some cases have students learn the content that is appropriate for gifted students in various grades. Have a selection of excellent textbooks such as Unified Math that offer rigorous content for GT students. The class should study, analyze, and discuss them. Have students observe GT students in action, or if logistics are a problem, have panels of GT students visit the class to discuss topics, content, and teaching methods that really challenge and interest them. Have a visiting panel of adults who were enrolled in gifted programs. Wouldn't you love to hear their suggestions for the perfect GT course? Don't smother the class with complex fog such as June Maker's book. That book would cripple a true GT learner. I'm a strong proponent of divergent thinking but I also like for things to make sense.

Here are some important observations and requests of their teachers from many of my GT students over the years.
  • Don't review last year's material for the first two months of school.
  • Give us a few hard problems instead of a bunch of easy ones.
  • Stop assigning so many projects especially when routine content is involved.
  • Recognize our creativity and higher level thinking skills. Stop judging us only on the ability to follow directions.
  • Don't take it personally when your lesson doesn't interest us.
  • Find new, difficult, strange, and exciting content and teach it to us. We will make the mental leaps and provide our own extensions. Just teach us some real content.
  • Please provide us with teachers who truly know their content and who love their subject area.
  • Please appreciate and relate to our sense of humor.
  • Allow us to challenge our teachers as long as there is no disrespect intended.
  • Provide us with teachers who have the confidence to accept our academic challenges and treat them as a positive.
  • Please note that some of us love learning but hate school. Try to understand why or just ask us.
  • Please take us out of groups of four. When two of the four of us cooperate and do all of the work, it's not cooperative learning.
  • Allow us to help you teach and offer clever alternative solutions but please, you be the teacher. Don't be the guide on the side. Teach us!
  • Know when going off on a tangent is a good thing.
  • Know your content well enough so that if we ask an intriguing question, you might change your lesson plan on the spot.
  • Don't make us waste our time reading in English class while the teacher is checking e-mail. We read all the time outside of school and we would much rather spend our time analyzing, debating, and learning.
  • Please provide us with teachers who are not jealous of our exceptional intellect.
  • Provide us with teachers who enjoy teaching GT students including the quirky disorganized but brilliant ones who most teachers write off.
Oh, I could go on and on with their comments but you did say something about spending three hours. I could spend three days just discussing their comments. Let me just say that discussing those 18 points would be the best GT course that money could buy. No Gardner, no Sternberg, just the real world of teaching intellectually gifted students.

You will note that most of the models [in the graduate course] have three major themes:
  1. The teacher should not be the center of the universe.
  2. There should be an overreaching theme or concept.
  3. The lesson should be interdisciplinary and real world applications should be involved.
I know teachers who have done all three and the GT students find their courses to be boring and useless. They say that they don't learn anything, "we just do stuff." Many times, they don't understand their grade when rubrics and other "authentic assessments" are used.

First of all, the teacher should be the sage on the stage. GT students are capable of learning and doing an incredible amount on their own. They learn about their world faster than 99% of all students in their age group. They expect their teacher to provide them with something that perhaps they can't learn or do on their own. Our job is to stand in front of them and offer our wisdom, experiences, and our in depth knowledge of content. Yes, when they are in my classroom, I am the center of their universe because I actually have something to offer them.

As for themes, concepts, and applications and connections, they must occur naturally. GT students have complained about teachers rigging lessons to make them connect to other disciplines. When I use a piece of vocabulary that the students learned in another subject area, the smiles are everywhere. Wow, you really are part of the real world. If it had been contrived, you would never get that neat reaction.

I would like to end my reflection with a comment and then a lesson that happened purely by accident.

My comment concerns you. The most important thing that I learned from EDCI 623 was the comment that you made concerning how one of your daughter's teachers could not relate to the GT class because of a large intelligence disconnect. I had never considered the importance of at least being intellectually in the same ballpark with your GT students until you made that comment. After giving it a lot of thought, I think that it is profoundly important. At many schools, GT students are in a constant war with their teachers. Now this would be a perfect piece of research for someone like Gardner to pursue instead of wasting his time inventing intelligences.

I leave you with an example of how GT students learn.

At times, I would use vocabulary in my first period class that the students had not been exposed to. For instance, tyro and ilk were unknown to them. After a while, they assumed that I started making words up, so they would check them in a dictionary that was kept on one of my bookshelves. I would of course define the word before they looked it up and I was always correct. They were impressed that a math teacher knew vocabulary. Two students asked if they could take the first five minutes of each class to present one SAT type word and discuss its origins with the class. I agreed and the result was amazing. The students were enthused, I was enthused, and we learned some very nifty words. At the end of the grading period, the two students wrote a vocabulary quiz based on the selected words and of course I was asked to take it along with the class. I am proud to announce that I tied for fifth out of thirty-one on the quiz. Oh yes, the top six scorers were listed on the board. The students received extra credit and I could brag about tying with a student who reads twenty-four hours a day.

I mention this piece of learning to reinforce the notion that the best learning occurs when it's not contrived or related to some obscure theme. This lesson occurred purely by accident starting with words spoken by their center of the universe, their teacher.

Vern Williams is a math teacher at Longfellow Middle School, Fairfax, VA. In addition to teaching Honors Math to students in the Gifted Talented Center program, he teaches algebra/geometry in a one-year, two-credit course he developed. He also offers math reasoning courses and math enrichment during the summer months and during the school year. He was named to the National Mathematics Advisory Panel in 2006. On March 27, 2011, he published a brief commentary for the New York Times titled "Let us Teach!"

For more about Vern Williams, see his Web site:

Note from Laurie Rogers: If you would like to submit a guest column on public education, please write to me at Please limit columns to not more than 1,000 words. Columns might be edited for length, content or grammar. You may remain anonymous to the public, however I must know who you are. All decisions on guest columns are the sole right and responsibility of Laurie Rogers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

District not replacing math materials for two more years

By Laurie H. Rogers

After more than 20 years of absolute commitment to a “reform” approach to K-12 mathematics, our nation has a serious math problem. Students suffer from high remediation rates in math in college, low pass rates on state math tests, low levels of math skills, high student anxiety toward mathematics, and high dropout rates.

Properly conducted research clearly indicates serious problems with the K-8 math programs used in Spokane Public Schools (Investigations in Number, Data, and Space and Connected Mathematics Project (CMP). Public feedback at our community forums indicates widespread discontent with the district’s approach to math. You’d think all of that would be enough to convince Spokane administrators and board directors to replace the district’s much-criticized K-8 math programs.

Think again.

For four years and seven weeks, I’ve been asking administrators to replace these awful math materials. Since Nov. 8, 2010, I’ve been asking if they plan to do it. I want their answer “on the record” – delivered in public or in writing. Longtime district administrator Karin Short has repeatedly refused to deliver an answer in writing. And, rather than direct the superintendent to have her staff comply with this citizen request, board president Sue Chapin appears to find fault with my request for a written answer.

That’s where things stood for 153 days, until March 14. On that day, I finally got my answer in public. The answer is no. They don't plan to replace these materials – not for at least two years and not because the public asked them to. What they're waiting for is the "common" curriculum.

On March 14, at a Spokane Public Schools Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, district administrators discussed how they plan to fix the middle schools. Administrative “solutions” to the middle-school problem include adopting new methods for assessing teachers, and hiring an unnamed “expert.” The math materials weren’t mentioned.

So, at that meeting, I again asked Tammy Campbell, executive director of instructional programs, if the district planned to replace Connected Mathematics (CMP). She said CMP wouldn’t be replaced for at least two more years. Two years from now, she said, the national initiatives for the Common Core State Standards, common tests, and common curricula will necessitate changes and the district doesn’t want to spend money now or drag teachers through multiple changes.

Thus, we can already see how federal control results in local paralysis. I’ll also note here that it’s questionable whether the Common Core initiatives ultimately will bring the changes in math that the children actually require.

Meanwhile, I noted to Campbell on March 14 that research indicates that CMP is a weak program. She said other districts (Lake Washington, Bellevue, Issaquah, and Federal Way) use CMP and do well with it. This argument is weak. Statistically, these district comparisons are neither valid nor reliable.
  • Comparison districts should have similar types of student populations. The four districts Campbell chose are not similar to Spokane in this way.
  • Students in comparison districts should have a similar background in mathematics. Spokane uses Investigations in Number, Data, and Space to prepare its K-5 students for middle-school math. Bellevue, however, uses Math Expressions, and Lake Washington uses enVisionMATH -- both have a more-traditional structure. Federal Way uses a mix of traditional and reform programs.
  • We don’t know much about these other districts’ students or math programs.
    • When did the districts adopt their math programs? How were those programs implemented, used, modified or supplemented? We don’t know.
    • How many students in those districts received outside supplementation or tutoring in math? How many came from other districts, programs, states or countries? We don’t know.
  • Campbell said these four other districts are “doing well” with CMP.
    • Federal Way no longer uses CMP. It finally replaced CMP with programs that use a more-traditional structure.
    • In 2010, Bellevue's 10th-grade pass rate in math was 67.7%. Issaquah's was 70.6%. Lake Washington had a 61.3% pass rate in 8th grade and a 66% pass rate in 10th grade. Next to Spokane's 48.5% pass rate in 8th grade and 38.9% pass rate in 10th grade, the other districts looked better, but let's not get carried away. The math tests were on "basic skills." Students needed just 56.9% to pass the 10th-grade test, and just 55% to pass the 8th-grade test.
Here’s what I take away from Campbell’s March 14 answer. Our district administrators:
  • Are OK with allowing our children and grandchildren to suffer for at least two more years with obviously failing math programs – quite possibly the two worst programs in the country. In a child’s math life, this is a massive, devastating amount of time.
  • Are willing to let our children and grandchildren flounder and fail while they continue to chug down our tax money and wait for other people to tell them what to do.
  • Appear to not understand what good research looks like.
  • Appear to not understand logic. If CMP and Investigations are as good as Campbell claimed on March 14, why is the district talking about replacing them in two years? And, if they aren’t as good as she claimed, why would she not change them now in order to help the students?
  • Cling to the idea that reform math programs are better than traditional programs, and that if the teachers would just DO the reform programs properly, everything would be fine.
  • Really want the Common Core State Standards, tests and curriculum. What does that tell you about where these federal initiatives are likely to take us?
In the end – despite weak student outcomes, high remediation rates in math, low pass rates on state math tests, high dropout rates, research indicating problems with these reform programs, 20 years of criticism from STEM professionals, and much local feedback from students, parents, and community members asking for a more-structured approach to mathematics – Spokane administrators refuse to budge.

I get a clear sense that in Spokane, as in many districts across the country, public education is all about the adults – about what they like, about what they want to do, about what kind of money they want to spend or not spend, and about where they want to go with things.

It isn’t about the students’ academic needs at all.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is

Rogers, L. (March 2011). "District not replacing math materials for two more years." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

This article was published March 27, 2011, on at this address:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Poverty NOT the problem with K-12 math

By Laurie H. Rogers

[Updated March 14]
A local school district spokesperson was quoted in a Feb. 27 column in The Spokesman-Review. According to column author Chris Cargill, of the Washington Policy Center, the district spokesperson said: “Instead of criticism, we’d like some help” (“Schools don’t shine in index”). The quotation made me laugh. What kind of help would that be, exactly?
  • For four years and six weeks, I’ve tried to persuade central-office administrators to adopt math materials that will get our children to college readiness in math. They don’t appear to want that help. On March 14, the executive director of instructional programs told parents the district wouldn't replace Connected Mathematics for at least two more years.
  • I’ve tried to persuade a few principals to allow me to begin a free tutoring program in arithmetic. Other community members also have tried this. The district doesn’t appear to want that help.
  • I’ve been asking questions since January 2007. I write this blog. I’ve written a book. Central-office administrators and a quorum of board directors appear uninterested in my research, my desires as a parent, my daughter’s needs, or what would cause me to spend four years in this way. Occasionally, I get a glimpse of what some of them think about me and my efforts to help the children. Often shockingly arrogant and immature, their comments also indicate they haven't budged an inch on reform math.
  • I’m working now with two STEM professionals to give people the information they need to help their children and grandchildren. Administrators definitely don’t want that help. They continue to argue passionately for their approach. It’s obvious to everyone but them that this approach completely fails the children.
Read through my blog and see how central-office administrators have obstructed, undermined, and dismissed all help from the community … unless it supported their philosophy toward learning or came with a check. The district administration doesn’t want “help.” It wants scapegoats.

A favorite scapegoat, used shamelessly and with impunity, is poverty. I heard it from self-identified teachers at a March 12 legislative town hall meeting. I saw it in the March 9 weekly The Inlander. I hear it frequently from district administrators.

“We have so many poor people,” they say sadly, bellies up and paws waving. “Can’t you see we’re doing our best? It’s the poverty. We can’t overcome poverty. Poverty is the problem. We also have ineffective teachers, uninvolved parents, unmotivated students, social issues, lack of money, changing standards, testing, No Child Left Behind, huge classes, and … uh … a bunch of other things for which we’re definitely NOT responsible … But, the main problem is poverty.”

“Poverty is the key,” a district employee said at our Feb. 7 forum. “If you could fix poverty, you would fix the math problem.” He thinks he’s absolved from responsibility. Pass rates on standardized math tests do tend to be lower for disadvantaged students, but that isn’t because poverty is the problem with math. Jaime Escalante, Ben Chavis and Geoffrey Canada all have capably taught math to disadvantaged children.

I could give every poor family in Spokane millions of dollars, fancy suits, and a Lamborghini. If their children went through the district math program, and without outside intervention, they would eventually park the family Lamborghini in the community college parking lot and walk inside to take multiple remedial math classes – which about half would fail.

Four things are required for any classroom to be effective. I call those things the “Square of Effective Learning.” These are its four corners:

  1. Effective teacher
  2. Prepared student
  3. Efficient and effective curriculum (learning materials)
  4. Focused and effective learning environment
Poverty is not in this Square. (Careful now, lest you accidentally stereotype low-income families.)

I built the Square of Effective Learning because administrators and instructional coaches continually divert the conversation away from the math materials. Spokane’s K-8 math materials have been criticized across this country, from border-to-border and from coast-to-coast since their inception. They have wreaked devastation in every community, every income level, and every ethnicity. Spokane’s leadership has so far refused to replace its K-8 materials with math textbooks that are efficient, effective and sufficient.

Our students are prevented from learning the mathematical skills that would help them rise out of their circumstances. Administrators blame poverty, while they add to the poverty problem. Rather than allowing these kids to learn to fish, they’re grooming them to accept a fish a day for the rest of their lives.

Poverty isn’t the math problem, and money won’t fix it. The math problem is fixed by teaching students sufficient math skills. Children from poor families can be taught, and if they’re ever to escape poverty, they must be taught. Students get one shot at a good K-12 education. The material must therefore be delivered effectively and efficiently.

At one time, children from low-income families were taught effectively and efficiently. My husband’s family was poor. Many of today’s STEM professionals used to be poor. Several attendees at our community forums grew up poor, but their education gave them new lives. They resent hearing that poverty is the problem with math. Huge numbers of immigrants came to America to be taught in our public education system. They were taught rigorously and efficiently - even with language barriers - and most thrived. Today’s immigrants, however, are perplexed by the lack of arithmetic, grammar, civics, or cursive writing in our schools. When they ask questions about the math program, some are assured: “There are lots of fields that don’t require math.”

"That isn’t what I want to hear,” a parent said to me recently. “My children need to learn math. They need to learn grammar. They need to go to college. It’s why I came here. I’m angry to hear that my income level is being blamed for district failures.”

Here’s how income level does bear on the math problem. Parents with money are better able to fix the mess the district leaves behind. Those with a math background can see gaps earlier and more clearly and can help fill in those gaps. Parents with money are better able to pay for professional tutors or private schools where teachers are allowed to teach. They often have connections and options that other parents don’t. Poverty bears on learning insofar as it prevents parents from hiring people who will do what the public schools won’t.

Meanwhile, as our administrators complain continually about poverty, I’ve watched for four years as Spokane Public Schools sinks under

  • high remediation rates in college in math and English
  • low pass rates on state tests that required less than 60% to pass
  • low levels of student skills, to a point where students know almost no grammar, can’t add fractions together, don’t understand the number line, and can’t accurately subtract simple numbers without the use of a calculator
  • a net loss of thousands of full-time-enrolled students
  • high dropout rates, even in middle school
  • complaints from parents and community members
  • ever-increasing expenditures per student
Nancy Stowell became superintendent in 2007 but has been a central-office administrator since 1991. What are her successes? She and her administrators get a perennial free pass on failed policy. There is no real oversight, no assessment, no objective analysis of their effectiveness, as it relates to student outcomes. They interfere constantly, yet they’re ready to "assess" teachers, happy to assess teachers, really looking forward to assessing teachers --- based on student outcomes. Gee, I wonder how that will go.

When central-office administrators refuse to do what needs to be done for the students, to carry out the will of the board, to listen to parents and professionals, or to be accountable for the poor results of their policies – they must be replaced. When they persist in blaming everyone else, hounding good teachers out of the classroom, and wasting taxpayer money on their own salaries and failed philosophy – they must be replaced.

The contract for Spokane’s superintendent rolls over in June, each year putting her in the first year of a three-year contract. Hers is basically a lifetime job, unless the board takes action. Apparently, this sort of contract isn’t unusual in public education. Other central-office decision-makers also have de facto lifetime jobs. Student outcomes obviously aren’t the metric for their evaluation; otherwise, nearly all would be gone.

District K-12 math programs must include standard algorithms, practicing to mastery, efficiency, effectiveness, and sufficient arithmetic and algebra. Current students who need remediation (to bring them to where they should have been) must get it. If the superintendent won’t replace ineffective administrators with effective ones, then the board must replace her. If the board won’t replace the superintendent … the people must replace the board.

Our children and our communities need strong math and grammar skills, and we, the people must find a way to work together and make it happen.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is
Rogers, L. (March 2011). "Poverty NOT the problem with K-12 math." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

CCSS: Please ask all legislators to vote to delay

Note from Laurie Rogers: Below is a sample letter you can send to legislators asking them to delay the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Washington State. Below the letter is argumentation explaining why the CCSS must not be adopted. Links to legislator email addresses are here.

Please write to legislators today, and ask others to do it as well. Please write to more than just your representatives. This vote must cross the aisle, or it will be unsuccessful. Please do not delay. Time is of the essence. In Washington State, if legislators do nothing, the CCSS will be adopted under legislation passed last year. This was a sneaky move by supporters of the CCSS.

This year's HB1891 moved to delay the adoption of the CCSS, but Rep. Santos refused to allow a hearing on HB1891. After much pressure on Rep. Santos, a hearing now is scheduled for March 10 at 8 a.m., but that is after the House deadline. It's hard to say if HB1891 still has any legs, because legislative rules appear to be flexible for those in charge.

Language from HB1891 can still be written into a Senate bill. The CCSS must be stopped - in Washington State and elsewhere. Please write to your legislators now.


Dear Sir/Madam:

Re: House Bill 1891 in the House Education Committee

A hearing on HB1891 is scheduled for March 10 at 8 a.m. This legislation must be passed, or its language must be incorporated into another House or Senate bill and then passed in this session.

I’m asking for your vigorous support for the language in HB1891. Please take action to stop the erosion of local control of our children’s education. Please represent the interests of your constituents by:
  1. Ensuring that school standards for Washingtonians are “Washington grown and managed” – not foisted on us by federal and corporate interests, and not driven by a multi-state, ideologically driven consortium.
  2. Ensuring that the better mathematics standards Washington taxpayers have already paid for will remain the law of the land.
  3. Saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars simply by not signing us on to the Common Core State Standards and common tests initiatives.
I hope to see your public support of HB1891, and your public rejection of all other bills that also would serve to remove the people’s voice. Your legislative acumen and skills must be put into overdrive in an all-out effort to have HB1891 passed.

Last year’s elections clearly indicate that the people expect their legislators to represent their interests. I’m closely watching this issue and will assess my legislators’ commitment to my interests. The people desire local decision-making on local issues.

Thank you for your efforts on our behalf.

Very respectfully,

(your name and contact information) 


Reasons Not to adopt the Common Core State Standards

By Laurie H. Rogers, education advocate, Spokane, WA

  • The CCSS/tests/curriculum initiatives are untested and unproved. There are no tangible, measurable results anywhere in this country, no evidence to support allegations of their efficacy. Our children and teachers are the subjects of this national education experiment. It’s irresponsible to mandate that we all rush to adopt untested products.
  • In math, the CCSS are a lesser product. Supporters of the CCSS admit that Washington’s current math standards are better, but they claim it doesn’t matter. Who spends hundreds of millions of dollars to adopt something that isn’t as good?
  • The CCSS are a “minimum” AND a “maximum” standard. Our state is allowed to add up to 15% more content to the CCSS, but the costs of adding and assessing the extra are to be borne by taxpayers. It's almost certain we would get the CCSS as is. Regardless, any addition is limited to 15%.
  • The people don’t own the CCSS. Non-governmental organizations NGA and CCSSO own the CCSS. There is therefore no public accountability for the quality of the CCSS, no public vote against them, no public control over how they will be modified, and no recourse if the people don’t like the results.
  • Nationalization of public education. With national standards, a national test, a national curriculum, a national database – and no local control – public education is thereby nationalized. Taxpayers will not be in control of what their children are learning, in the classrooms they pay for.
  • Initially, these initiatives will produce instability and taxpayer costs. Then, there will be continued change and costs, or national paralysis. Centralization of public education initially will cause upheaval as all districts change over – at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars. Supporters have called the CCSS a “living document,” indicating that change is expected. If so, this will be change and costs over which our state, districts, legislators, teachers and parents have little or no control. Another distinct possibility is national paralysis, where no one wants to change anything because then everyone would have to change.
  • These initiatives will provide less public accountability. With the national standards/tests/curriculum, public education will be turned over to people who don’t know us, and who will never talk with us. It will result in a complete loss of local decision-making, and less real public accountability.
    • The process used in Washington State to “provisionally” adopt the CCSS cut the public out of the process until it was all but too late. The public was told one thing, even as a completely different thing was happening. Gov. Gregoire and Superintendent Dorn signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the CCSS with no public notification. A few months later, they were pushing districts to sign on to RTTT (and the attendant CCSS) before the standards were even written.
    • When public input finally was solicited, it was after the CCSS had been provisionally adopted. OSPI’s public “surveys” were heavily biased toward their permanent adoption.
    • I’ve been trying for almost two years to get answers from the national business and political interests pushing the CCSS, and from the U.S. Department of Education. I haven’t received responses from most of these people, much less answers. The Dept. of Ed appears to be ignoring a Freedom of Information Act request about the CCSS.
    • The CCSS were provisionally adopted, pending a legislative review in early 2011. But in this 2011 session, legislators have not had the opportunity to vote against their permanent adoption.
  • Adopting the CCSS/tests/curriculum is a waste of taxpayer money. The money Washington State would get for the Race to the Top initiative will not pay for the costs of adopting the national standards/tests/curriculum. Ultimately, the national standards/tests/curriculum initiatives will cost more than the standards and assessments we have now.
    • Washington State taxpayers spent more than $100 million on the development and implementation of the 2008 math standards that are clearer and more rigorous than those in the CCSS.
    • State education agencies’ cost estimations for the CCSS often don’t take into account district costs, nor costs for materials, professional development, or the technology mandated by the new “common” tests.
    • The money to build current standards and assessments is already spent. There are no savings to be had – not until the state MIGHT make changes at some unknown point down the road. It’s “creative accounting” to call that nebulous assumption “saving money.”
    • It isn’t better to spend “federal” money than it is to spend “district” money. “Federal,” “state” and “district” money are all taxpayer money. Taxpayers can’t afford this untested, unproved upheaval.
    • Even if Washington adopted the CCSS and got all of the money it could get for Race to the Top, half stays at the state level. The amount going to districts is a few dozen dollars per student per year, and there is no guarantee that ANY of it would go to classrooms.
No taxpayer understands spending hundreds of millions of dollars to adopt standards that are untested, expensive, and demonstrably less rigorous in math than what we have now. Yes, our public education system is weak. The answer is not to give away more control – it is to regain control at local levels, and hold those local people accountable. Something needs to be done, but not this. Not the CCSS. Not RTTT. Not the centralization and federalization of public education. Not the removal of the people’s voice and our vote. We need MORE voice, more choice, and more options for parents and teachers. Competition is good for education.

The CCSS/common assessments will add to costs, lower standards, eliminate choice, and ultimately not help children learn better. Adopting the CCSS will take our public schools in exactly the wrong direction.

Legislators must vote to delay the CCSS. Please help put a STOP to the adoption of the CCSS, to the complete centralization of our public education system, and to the removal of the people's voice.

Thank you for your help.
Laurie Rogers

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Public education slipping out of our hands; we must fight to get it back

[Updated March 3, 2011, to add a paragraph about CCSS also being a "maximum standard."]

By Laurie H. Rogers

The Common Core State Standards (national standards) are leading to national assessments, which are leading to a national curriculum. Sec. Arne Duncan has spoken publicly about making all federal taxpayer money for education contingent on adopting this federal vision. The national assessments will be online, perhaps leading to a national database of our students and teachers. And there you have it: Nationalization of public education. This is a national experiment -- untested, unfunded, long-term expensive, and with no student data to support it.

Many people don't realize that the CCSS aren't just a "minimum" standard. They're also a "maximum" standard. Washington would be allowed to add up to 15% more content to the CCSS, but no more. Additionally, the costs of adding, supporting and assessing that extra 15% would be borne by state taxpayers. Therefore, it's likely we would get the CCSS as is, whatever they are, whatever they become under the people who control them. The CCSS are a gateway to a national test and a national curriculum. At that point, parents have nothing more to say about what our children are learning in the public schools that we pay for. It will all be said for us.

A large portion of this country doesn't want this. But who cares about what the people want? So far, in Washington State, few education administrators or lawmakers have paid much attention to what We, the People want in public education. It makes me wonder: Who could actually stop this train?
  • It won’t be the state legislators who wanted to adopt the CCSS sight unseen. They listened to well-reasoned arguments against their adoption, and they voted for the standards/tests anyway.
  • It won’t be the state legislators who didn’t want to adopt the CCSS at all. After Washington Superintendent Randy Dorn provisionally adopted the CCSS last year, our legislators never had a chance to vote against their permanent adoption. Last year’s “provisional” adoption was a de facto permanent adoption – not that anyone told the people this. At this moment, Washington taxpayers have a slim chance, if legislators amend an existing bill to include language preventing the adoption. The time to do that is almost gone.
  • It won’t be the governors or state education agencies who were always on board, right from the beginning, before the CCSS were written, before the people knew about it, before we had a chance to think about it, before anything was even down on paper.
  • It won’t be the local school board directors who heard the people say "wait!" and who heard the governor and the state superintendent say "do it" -- and who promptly voted to do it.
  • It won’t be the local superintendents who appear to view the people's wishes with general disdain and who always supported the CCSS/tests initiatives, arguing for them with incredibly weak, yet wildly successful argumentation.
  • It won’t be those teachers unions that climbed on board the nationalization train, or the ones that are reluctant to stand tall in support of their beleaguered teachers.
  • It won’t be the media that are filled with praise for these initiatives and for the people involved in them, or that are absolutely silent on the more worrisome aspects.
  • It won’t be the teachers who - out of fear for their jobs - have remained largely silent, and who now have a big target on their backs via a national "Blame the Teacher" movement.
We must understand what's bearing down on us here. Our last recourse, as parents, is to leave the system. And when the U.S. Secretary of Education, Bill Gates, the NGA, the CCSSO, Achieve, and Pearson Education don't want us to leave? What will happen then? There are people in charge now who would have no problem with limiting, monitoring, or regulating private schooling or homeschooling ... or with eliminating homeschooling completely. All for the good of the children, of course.

For all intents and purposes, folks, we have already lost our voice. The Education Machine already has complete control. It's still playing nice, pretending that We, the People have input. But the process already is sewn up tight.

We can see the truth in those rare instances when someone stands up to fight it. Then the boot comes out. Or, when we expect to have input, and we see that our voice was purposefully slanted, rewritten, removed, and rephrased. Or, when we expect our legislators to vote against something, and they can't ...  never having the opportunity to do what we ask.

What We, the People must do now is fight to get back our voice. This national standards/tests/curriculum movement is likely to lead public-school classrooms right back into reform math hell (that many of us sadly were never able to leave). But wherever it takes us, that path will be mandated, away from the people, away from our input or our control. And without real accountability to the people, without our dissent, without our arguments, and without our vote -- but with a bottomless pit of our tax dollars -- these initiatives could well bury this country for generations.

Despite all of this, I have hope. I believe in the democratic Republic, and I believe in the people. The solution rests with all of us. We've been persistently lied to, and so most of us have been silent, not understanding what's happened. Or, we've been concerned, but unsure of where to take our concern. It doesn't have to stay that way.

In Spokane and in the surrounding area, the people are listening. I'll speak to any group, I'll do it for free, and I'll fight for as long as I can. This battle is about more than the children, more than the teachers, more than the future of public education. This really is about our future as a free and educated people.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is:

Rogers, L. (March 2011). "Public education slipping out of our hands; we must fight to get it back." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: