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Greg Goodknight: Common Cored indeed

On May 30, 2014, in a letter, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” Linda Campbell landed low blows attacking my earlier piece, “It’s time to do the math” (5/20/2014).

I cited California Dept. of Education STAR, API and Similar Schools data to bring into focus the poor performance of too many Nevada County schools for the upcoming election.

Revisiting Campbell’s letter after a recent discovery in math education circles, I found she was a retired teacher and principal of the “NU Technical High School,” one of several small NJUHSD continuation high schools, and a recently elected trustee of the district.

“Mr. Goodnight’s letter (proves) a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Despite him (sic) using statistical jargon of percentile, decile, (sic) he clearly lacks the ability to understand let alone do analysis of statistical data.”

It takes more than a little ability and knowledge of math to be a physicist, engineer and inventor on technology patents (U.S. Robotics and Cisco Systems) and none of the “jargon” I used for that piece would have been out of place in my public middle school pre-algebra class. It takes almost no mathematics to earn social science and education credentials from Chico State, Ms. Campbell’s background.

“Also he is using testing data based on Content Based Standards established by No Child Left Behind (NCLB),” was another error by Trustee Campbell. The “Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools” of 1992 was the start of whole math in this state; conforming curricula were adopted in Nevada County schools in 1995. One remedy, California’s Content Standards (dating from ’97) were purely homegrown by top mathematicians at Stanford and UC Berkeley, long before NCLB.

The mandates of 2001’s bipartisan NCLB didn’t affect our content standards, it required states to have standards and administer tests that aligned to them. We already were.

“Common Core replaces the Content Based Standards, so based on Mr. Good(k)night’s statistical analysis, Common Core could be a good thing,” she wrote.

The Fordham Institute, a big Common Core booster, rated California’s math content standards the best in the nation, above the final Common Core math content standard which we were pushed to adopt before CCSSM was even finished. Trustee Campbell is wrong again.

“Also, NCLB was responsible for the so-called practice of data mining. This information is taken from enrollment data of the students. What is interesting is that all this was established by the Bush administration. Where were your voice and math skills then, Mr. Good(k)night?” she wrote.

While Ms. Campbell was busy teaching alternative/continuation high school students, I was busy with life, keeping my son’s education on track as a newly widowed father and working with volunteer educational advocacy groups like Mathematically Correct, helping pull California’s Content Standards, textbook review and the STAR testing into place.

After Campbell boasted of teaching history in an email to me, I checked … and of 11 NU Tech 11th grade history students tested in 2006, by the implied STAR letter equivalents, one got a C, three got D’s and seven deserved F’s … kudos to the English teacher who got much better results with the very same kids.

“In fact, based on my math skills, it looks like you are bringing up an unrelated educational issue from 20 years ago. It does not add up,” she wrote.

It adds up, lights are flashing, bells are ringing. The director of California’s 1992 Mathematics Framework disaster, Phil Daro, had only a BA in English. Then, nearly 20 years later, the same Phil Daro (still no degree in math) was hired to chair the Common Core Math standards development. The whole math dog whistles in the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice read the same as Daro’s ’92 framework, and old Whole Math curricula like the horribly misnamed College Preparatory Math (CPM, originally a remedial program for failing students) are boasting their programs are CCSS aligned going all the way back to 1989.

It adds up all right: same people, same curriculum, different decade.

Common Core truly is a whole math redux but this time it’s everywhere, and when whole math version 2.0 unfolds as before in a meltdown of student understanding, we’ll again remove Daro’s pedagogy directives, have math professors review textbooks for content, and again administer low stakes (for students) tests with public disclosure only regarding the overall results to demonstrate school effectiveness, with individual student data only available to the schools, the students, and their parents.

Greg Goodknight, BS Physics, MS Electrical Engineering, lives in Nevada City.


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